1 John 1:8
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Sermons
The Good Man Useful in Life and Happy in DeathAndrew Lee et al 1 John 1:8
A Glorious MessageW. Jay.1 John 1:5-10
Communion with GodJ. Alexander.1 John 1:5-10
Fellowship with GodH. Thorne.1 John 1:5-10
God is LightD. Smith.1 John 1:5-10
God is LightThe Evangelical Preacher1 John 1:5-10
God is TightJ. P. Lilley, M. A1 John 1:5-10
God the Satisfying LightW. Arthur.1 John 1:5-10
Light and Darkness: Sin and PurificationF. D. Maurice, M. A.1 John 1:5-10
Light in the Hour of DarknessE. W. Bibb.1 John 1:5-10
Light the Nature and Dwelling Place of GodR. S. Candlish,D. D.1 John 1:5-10
Message from Christ Brought to Bear on Fellowship with GodR. Finlayson 1 John 1:5-10
No Darkness in GodA. R. Fausset, M. A.1 John 1:5-10
No Substitute for Light1 John 1:5-10
The Child of Light Walking in LightC. H. Spurgeon.1 John 1:5-10
The Clergy God's MessengersE. Blencowe, M. A.1 John 1:5-10
The Conditions of Divine FellowshipJames Morgan, D. D.1 John 1:5-10
The Perfect Light of GodDean Church.1 John 1:5-10
The Right Way of Obtaining and Maintaining Communion with GodM. Barker, M. A.1 John 1:5-10
Assumptions of SinlessnessC. Moinet, M. D.1 John 1:8-10
Compression of Sins and the Power of AbsolutionBp. Sparrow.1 John 1:8-10
ConfessionDean Goulburn.1 John 1:8-10
Confession of SinF. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.1 John 1:8-10
Confession of SinH. Binning.1 John 1:8-10
Confession of Sins the Sure Condition of Forgiveness and CleansingJ. J. Glen-Kippen.1 John 1:8-10
Deceiving OurselvesLyman Abbott.1 John 1:8-10
Denial of Sin and Confession of Sin with Their Respective ConsequencesD. Clark.1 John 1:8-10
Divine ForgivenessR. S. Storrs.1 John 1:8-10
God's Justice in ForgivenessW. A. Whitworth, M. A.1 John 1:8-10
God's Justice in ForgivenessK. Arvine.1 John 1:8-10
Honest Confession BestH. W. Beecher.1 John 1:8-10
Honest Dealing with GodC. H. Spurgeon.1 John 1:8-10
Insincere ConfessionC. H. Spurgeon.1 John 1:8-10
Justice SatisfiedC. H. Spurgeon.1 John 1:8-10
Man's Attitude Towards His Own SinsW. Jones 1 John 1:8-10
Self-Delusion as to Our State Before GodProf. W. A. Butler.1 John 1:8-10
Sins of HeartC. Stanford, D. D.1 John 1:8-10
Spiritual Cleansing1 John 1:8-10
The Conviction and Confession of SinJames Morgan, D. D.1 John 1:8-10
The Heart SinfulR. McCheyne.1 John 1:8-10
The Primary Condition of the Divine Fellowship Fulfilled in the Believing Compression of a Guileless SpiritR. S. Candlish, D. D.1 John 1:8-10
The True ComfortW. A. Cornwall, M. A.1 John 1:8-10
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, etc. It is implied that man is a sinner, that even Christian men "have sin." The renewed nature is not, in our present condition, an altogether sinless nature. The saintly apostle includes himself in the "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves," etc. But this is not the same moral condition as "walking in the darkness" (verse 6). In that condition the man "is in the darkness;" in this, the sin is in the man. In that, darkness is the moral region in which the sinner lives and moves and has his being; in this, he lives and walks in the light, but is not altogether free from sin. Our text sets before us two contrasted attitudes of men towards their own sins.

I. THE DENIAL OF PERSONAL SINS. "If we say that we have no sin," etc. (verse 8). "If we say that we have not sinned," etc. (verse 10). Notice:

1. This denial itself. It may be made variously.

(1) By affirming that we are flee from sin. There may be persons whose view of the exalted claims of God's holy law is so deficient, and whose estimate of their own character and conduct is so exaggerated, that they think and assert that they have no sin.

(2) By pleading the merit of certain good actions as a set-off against our sins. In this case certain small and venial sins are acknowledged, but very many virtuous and generous deeds are claimed, and great merit is ascribed to them, and they are held to far more than counterbalance the slight offences. Or, like the Pharisee (Luke 18:11, 12), a man may conclude that he has no sin by comparing himself and his good works with others whom he deems very much his inferiors.

(3) By extenuating the character of sin. There are not a few who virtually deny the fact of sin altogether. What the Bible calls sin they speak of as misdirection, imperfect development, inherited tendencies to errors of life; and thus they seek to get rid of personal guilt.

2. The consequences of this denial.

(1) The self-deception of the denier. "He deceiveth himself." By closing his eyes to the light of truth and holiness, he is wandering into moral error, falsehood, and danger. He sins against his own soul.

(2) The manifestation of the solemn fact that the truth of God is not in him. Saying that he has no sin, he testifies that neither the truth of the perfect holiness of God, nor that of the sinfulness of man, is realized by him.

(3) The negation of the Divine veracity. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar." God has repeatedly declared that all men are sinners (Romans 3:10-18). All the provisions and arrangements for man's redemption imply that he is a sinner and spiritually lost. But if any man has not sinned, these declarations are untrue, and redemption itself is based upon falsehood. How dreadful a thing it is to "make him a liar"!

(4) The manifestation of the fact that the Word of God is not in him. By "his Word" (verse 10) we do not understand the eternal and personal Word (as in verse 1), but, as Ebrard says, "the collective revelation of God, not merely that which is contained in the written words of the Old and New Testaments, but the entire self-annunciation of the nature of God, who is Light." The whole revelation of the mind and will of God teaches that man is a sinner; he who says that he has not sinned contradicts that revelation, and in so doing shows that the spirit of that revelation is not in him.

II. THE CONFESSION OF PERSONAL SINS. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

1. The confession itself. The confession, to be valid, must be sincere; it must be the expression of penitence. The apostle means more than a vague, general confession of sin. It is to be feared that many join in the "general confession" in church every Sunday without any true realization of their personal guiltiness, and whose confession, consequently, cannot be acceptable unto God. Our confession must be personal and particular; it must spring from the heart, and its sincerity must be evinced in the life. Confession must be made to God. In our text there is no suggestion whatever of confession to a priest. Confession to man is binding only when we have injured man, and then the confession should be made to the injured person or persons. But the confession and forgiveness of which our text speaks are things which transpire between the penitent soul and the pardoning God.

2. The consequences of this confession.

(1) Forgiveness of our sins. As a consequence of genuine personal confession of sins, God exempts us from their spiritual penalties, sets us free from their guilt, and delivers us from condemnation. How completely and graciously God forgives (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 55:6, 7; Micah 7:10; Luke 15:20-24)!

(2) Cleansing from our sins. "And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Purification is promised as well as pardon; sanctification as well as justification. Of this sanctification we have already spoken (verse 7).

(3) The guarantee of these blessings. "He is faithful and just [Revised Version, 'righteous'] to forgive us our sins," etc. The character of God is a pledge that the penitent shall receive pardon and purification. He has promised these blessings; he is faithful, and will fulfill his promises. He is faithful, not only to his promises, but to his own holy nature. "God is Light," and he is true to himself in forgiving and sanctifying those who sincerely confess their sins. It seems to us that his righteousness here does not mean that, Christ having borne our sins and satisfied Divine justice, the forgiveness of all who believe on him is due to him or to them in him. That may be taught elsewhere, but we cannot discover it here. The justice or righteousness is that of the character of God; and pardon and purification from sin are bestowed in harmony with his righteousness. It may be, as Alford observes, that "in the background lie all the details of redemption, but they are not here in this verse: only the simple fact of God's justice is adduced." "Justice and mercy are forms of love. The same is true of righteousness, or right - this requires both justice and mercy; for no being can ever think himself righteous who does not exercise mercy where mercy is possible - 'faithful and just' (righteous), says an apostle, 'to forgive us our sins.' God will be just, retributively, because he is righteous. He will also be merciful and forgiving because he is righteous." Our subject presents the strongest reasons to dissuade us from attempting to cloak or deny our sins, and the strongest encouragement to humbly and heartily confess them unto God. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." - W.J.







If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves
This is a strong and clear statement, the utterance of an apostle who speaks out of the fulness of a long and ripe Christian experience, not simply in his own name, but as the organ or representative of the whole Church. Let us consider its bearing: —

I. ON OUR CONCEPTIONS OF TRUTH. Truth is a wide word, but I use it here in St. John's sense as equivalent to the truth of the gospel — the truth which regulates the kingdom of God. It is only by patient study and the contributions furnished by prayerful research on the part of her members, the Church can enrich herself with the full contents of Divine revelation. An infallible judgment can only exist in a perfect or sinless character. Prejudice prejudges a question in accordance with its own bias, and unduly discounts the evidence that looks in another direction. Personal feeling blinds us to considerations whose force would otherwise be recognised. Attachment to a theory, or a traditional interpretation, makes us unwilling to acknowledge frankly what tells against it, and tempts us to do violence to the natural meaning of words. To assume, therefore, that because a man is a Christian, sincere, devout, and earnest in his faith, he must be unquestionably right in his views of Scripture, is to assume what the apostle here condemns. It is to suppose that he is absolutely free from all that can limit, warp, or obscure the understanding, that is, that he has no sin. But you may ask — Does not this destroy the infallibility of the apostles themselves? They never claimed to be sinless. I answer to this that for special purposes the apostles were enriched with supernatural gifts. But still farther you may ask — What, then, does St. John mean when he says: "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things"? "All things," if you look at the verse that follows, St. John uses as equivalent to "the truth" — the distinctive truth of the gospel. As a man who does not know his own mind is at the mercy of every wind of opinion, and exercises no determining influence upon events, so the Church of Christ unless it knew her Lord, and the peculiar truths which centre in His Person, would be simply and hopelessly lost amid the conflicting eddies of the world. But this is quite a different matter from affirming that every individual Christian will come to correct conclusions on all the debatable subjects that lie within the compass of revelation. Let us, therefore, while we hold fast the faith and rest upon it, as the broad foundation of all our hope, ever remember our own proneness to go astray and to attach a disproportionate importance to secondary truths.

II. IN RELATION TO GUIDANCE IN PRACTICAL CONDUCT. When we know the gospel we wish to act in accordance with it. In other words, we desire not only to be led into right views of truths, but also into right conceptions of duty. In reality these two are one. To think truly will secure our acting rightly. If we should require to be perfect or sinless men in order to be sure that our conclusions in regard to all matters connected with Revelation are certainly right, we should require to be the same kind of men to be sure that our decisions in points of duty are never wrong. In both cases we must remember that if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and that wherever sin is there is liability to error, just as there is to pride, or hatred, or open transgression. Perhaps you will say: "Nobody seriously doubts this; but do we not receive in answer to prayer what will neutralise this confessed liability, and guide us to a right decision?" How, then, does God answer our prayer for guidance? He gives us what the Scripture calls grace, inward enlightenment, or strength, according as the occasion may require. But you must not imagine that grace, any more than sin, is a physical quantity which may occupy a definite space within a man's nature. Grace operates throughout our whole nature, renewing the will, cleansing the affections, stimulating and purifying thought, acting as an antidote in all these directions to the power of sin. Without it sin works unqualified by any Divine control, with it sin is always under restraint. Hence no act or perception on the part of a Christian man is wholly the result of grace, but more or less of grace and more or less of sin. In short, it is the outcome or exercise of a sinful nature in which both co-exist. We may interpose an obstacle that will seriously hinder His working or wholly arrest it. Conscience may have been deadened through previous inconsistency or unfaithfulness. The heart may have grown sluggish through neglect. Our affections may have spent themselves too lavishly upon earthly things, and grown dull and indifferent towards things above. Temptation may have prevailed against us, and through pride or unwatchfulness we may have admitted strange and alien guests into the sanctuary of the soul. Is it possible that in such circumstances we should be keenly sensitive to the motions of the Divine Spirit? May we not miss the intimations we might otherwise detect, or yield but a halting and imperfect response to their monitions? The truth is, we conceive of prayer and its results in too mechanical and unspiritual a way. We imagine we are always ready and able to receive, no matter what our petitions may include. It does not always occur to us that spiritual blessings must be spiritually discerned and spiritually used. And hence a double danger ensues. When Christians pray, and the answer does not correspond to the request, their faith in prayer is apt to be shaken. They fail to realise that His answer can never be heard so long as the ear is stopped; that His grace can never enter as long as the heart is preoccupied with other things, and unwilling to surrender itself wholly to Him. Or, on the other hand, they may assume that a Divine light is leading them on, where they are following in reality the sparks of their own kindling. They become dogmatic and opinionative, when there is no warrant for their being so. They contract a self-confidence, and conviction that they are always right, which is apt to blind them to many pitfalls, and dig a ditch for their own feet.

(C. Moinet, M. D.)

It is among the most potent of the energies of sin, that it leads astray by blinding, and blinds by leading astray.

I. THE APOSTLE DECLARES THAT THE IMAGINATION OF OUR OWN SINLESSNESS IS AN INWARD LIE. To believe or to deny the possibility of Christian "perfection" is to leave the motives of the spiritual life almost wholly unchanged, as long as each man believes (and who on any side doubts this?) that it is the unceasing duty of each to be as perfect as he can, and, in the holy ambition of yet completer conquest, to "think nothing gained while aught remains to gain." Were a perfect man to exist, he himself would be the last to know it; for the highest stage of advancement is the lowest descent in humility. As long as this humility is necessary to the fulness of the Christian character, it would seem that it is of the essence of the constant growth in grace to see itself lowlier as God exalts it higher. Besides this operation of humility, it must be remembered that the spiritual life involves a progressively increasing knowledge of God. Now, though the spirit of man assuredly must brighten in purity as thus in faith and love it approaches the great Source of all holiness, it must also appreciate far more accurately the force of the contrast between itself and its mighty model; and thus, as it becomes relatively more perfect, it may be said to feel itself absolutely less so. Nay, I doubt not but it is the very genius of that Divine love which is the bond of perfectness, to be lovingly dissatisfied with its own inadequacy; and such a worshipper in his best hours will feel that, though "love" be, indeed, as these divines so earnestly insist, the "fulfilling of the law," his love is itself imperfect, deficient in degree, and deficient in constancy; and that in this life it can, at best, be only the germ of that charity which, "never-failing," is to form the moving principle of the life of eternity. But it is not of those, whom some would not only pronounce "perfect," but enjoin to feel and know themselves such; it is not of those, who (as I would rather represent it) doubt all in themselves while they doubt nothing in Christ, that I have now to speak, but of those whose cold hearts and neglectful lives utter the bold denial of a sinlessness which the lips dare not deny; who "cry out of the depths"! indeed, but not for rescue or redemption; who cannot know God as a Redeemer, for they cannot feel from what He is to redeem!

II. IT WOULD BE VAIN TO THINK OF SPECIFYING THE PARTICULAR, CAUSES OF THE EVIL; WE CAN ONLY SPEAK OF SOME OF THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES ON WHICH IT RESTS. The whole mystery of deceit must be primarily referred to the governing agency of Satan — in this sense, as in every other, "the ruler of the darkness of this world." It is a living spirit with whom we have to contend, as it is a "living God" whom we have to aid us. The cunning of the Serpent alone can reach the master subtlety of making the soul of man do his work by being its own unpitying enemy, and traitor, and cheat; it is only the "father of lies" that thus can make the wretched heart a liar to itself. But then it is certain, that as God is pleased to work by means, and to approach circuitously to His ends, so, still more, is His enemy bound to the same law; and that, therefore, as the Creator's path of light, through providence and grace, is occasionally discoverable by experience, and directed on principles already prepared to His Almighty purposes, so also may the crooked ways of the Evil One, similarly adjusted, be similarly sought and known.

1. The first and darkest of his works on earth is also the first and deepest fountain of the misfortune we are now lamenting — the original and inherited corruption of the human soul itself. It is ignorant of sin, just because it is naturally sinful. We cannot know our degradation, we cannot struggle, or even wish, to rise, if we have never been led to conceive the possibility of a state higher than our own. Nature can teach discontent with this world, but there her lesson well nigh closes; she talks but vaguely, and feebly, and falsely of another! Now, if this be so, have we not for this mournful unconsciousness of our personal depravity a powerful cause in that depravity itself?

2. If Nature alone — treacherous and degraded nature — is silent in denouncing sin — if she has no instinctive power to arouse herself, what shall she be when doubly and trebly indurated by habit; when the malformed limb becomes ossified; when that faculty which was destined to be, under Divine guidance, the antagonist of nature, "a second nature," as it is truly called, to reform, and resist, and overlay the first — is perverted into the traitorous auxiliary of its corruption? We know not ourselves sinners, because from infancy we have breathed the atmosphere of sin; and we now breathe it, as we do the outward air, unceasingly, yet with scarcely a consciousness of the act! The professional man, for example, who may become habituated to the use of falsehood or duplicity, as little knows how to disentangle this, even in conception, from the bulk and substance of his customary business — to regard it as something separately and distinctively wrong — as men think of mentally decomposing into their chemical constituents the common water or air, every time they imbibe them. The mass of men know these, as they know their own hearts, only in the gross and the compound. Is it not thus that constant habit persuades us "we have no sin" by making us unceasingly sin; and increases our self-content in direct proportion as it makes it more and more perilous?

3. As men copy themselves by force of habit, they copy others by force of example; and both almost equally foster ignorance of the virulence of the evil they familiarise, and perpetually reconcile the sinner to himself. Mankind in crowds and communities tend to uniformity; as the torrents of a thousand hills, from as many different heights, meet to blend in one unbroken level. And in that union, the source of so much happiness and of so much guilt, each countenances the other to console himself; we are mutual flatterers only that the flattery may soothingly revert to our own corruptions.

4. How the power of this universality of sin around us to paralyse the sensibility of conscience is augmented by the influence of fashion and of rank — not merely to silence its voice, but to bestow grace, and attraction, and authority upon deadly sin — I need not now insist. Philosophers tell us that the least oscillation in the system of the material universe propagates a secret thrill to its extremity; it is so in the every act of social man; but the disorders of the upper classes are publicly and manifestly influential — they are as if the central mass itself of the system were shaken loose, and all its retinue of dependent worlds hurled in confusion around it.

5. But to example and authority, thus enlisted in the ranks of evil, and thus fortifying the false security of our imaginary innocence, must be added such considerations as the tendency of pleasure itself, or of indolence, to prolong this deception, and our natural impatience of the pain of self-disapproval. Now you know there are two ways of easing an aching joint — by healing its disease or by paralysing the limb. And there are two ways of escaping an angry conscience — by ceasing from the evil that provokes it or by resolutely refusing to hear its voice, which soon amounts to silencing it forever. And all this proceeds in mysterious silence! There are no immediate visible attestations of God's displeasure to startle or affright. All our customary conceptions of the justice of heaven are taken from the tribunals of earth, and on earth punishment ordinarily dogs the heels of crime. Hence, where the punishment is not direct, we forget that the guilt can have existed. The very immutability of the laws of visible nature, the ceaseless recurrence of those vast revolutions that make the annals of the physical universe, and the confidence that we instinctively entertain of the stability of the whole material system around us, while they are the ground of all our earthly blessings, and while they are, to the reason, a strong proof of Divine superintendence, are as certainly to the imagination a constant means of deadening our impressions of the possibility or probability of Divine interposition. Surely the God will break forth at length from His hidden sanctuary, and break forth, as of old upon the Mount, "in fire and the smoke of a furnace."

(Prof. W. A. Butler.)

How many are there in this congregation, I wonder, who would really say to themselves, "We have no sin"? I do not mean, would say it just in that form. Of course not. We are too well educated for that. But practically would say it, and would resent with considerable indignation that anyone else should call them sinners. I want you to consider how thus we do deceive ourselves.

1. In the first place, we balance off against our sins certain pseudo virtues. We keep, not very correctly, and certainly not with very good bookkeeping, a debtor and creditor account. Over against the evil in our lives we set certain credit marks. We attend church with regularity — perhaps we say our prayers, as the phrase is; perhaps we read our Bible, if we are not too much driven in the morning with engagements, or too sleepy at night to take it in. And therefore we are virtuous. It is very curious how loth men are to accept this most fundamental and simple truth of religion that God is a righteous God and demands righteousness of His children, and demands nothing else. So the ancient Jew was ready to give Him sacrifice and fast days and pilgrimages; and the ancient Pharisee stood up and prayed within himself, saying, "I thank God I am not as these other men are, extortioners, adulterers, unjust, or even as this publican; I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all I possess." "Mr. Pharisee, are you fair minded in your dealing and honourable in your work with other men?" "I fast twice a week." "Are you kind in your family, patient with your children, chivalric to your wife?" "I fast twice every week." "Did you ever cheat a man in a bargain?" "I give tithes of all I possess." "Have you ever had a share in political corruption?" Oh, it is an old trick, this balancing of one thing over against another, and thinking ourselves excused from righteousness by something else than righteousness. We wonder that in the Middle Ages men would put money into the coffers of the Church and think that balanced their iniquity. We will have no such system of indulgences as that; but there is many a person today in the nineteenth century who lives a life as grasping, as selfish, as covetous, as greedy, as ambitious as his neighbour, and thinks the account is balanced because he goes to church and says his prayers, or because he has at times ideals in which he rejoices. He thinks he is a Christian because he admires Christ; because sometimes his heart fills with emotion as he sings.

2. We assume virtues that are not our own, and think ourselves virtuous because of them. Men pride themselves on their family. Yes, it is a good thing to belong to a good family. But what have you and I done in our family? How much wiser or richer or better or nobler or worthier is it because we are members of it? Men glorify themselves because they are Americans. "I thank God that I am not a Turk, that I am not a Russian, that I am not even an Englishman — I am an American." What have you done that is worthy of the name America? That is the real question. What have you done to make politics purer, to make honour brighter, to make the America of the future more assured? So men pride themselves on their Church. "I am a member of a benevolent church — look at the list of its contributions; I am a member of a working Church — see its activities, how much it is doing." How much are you doing? How much did you put into that list of benefactions? You are not generous because you belong to a generous Church. Men that laugh openly at the theological doctrine of imputation practise it continually, only they impute to themselves, not the virtues of their God or of their Christ, but the virtues of their fellow men. Men believe in the solidarity of the race for the purpose of satisfying their pride, but not for the purpose of developing their humility.

3. As men take the virtues that do not belong to them, see them and rejoice in them, so they do not take the vices that belong to them. They see the sins of others — not their own. The spendthrift can read you a homily on the vices of the miser, but it never occurs to him that there is any vice in the life he is leading; the miser will read you an eloquent sermon on the vices of the spendthrift, but it never occurs to him that there is no sin in clutching a dollar until it cries. How quick are we to see the vices of our neighbours; how slow to turn our eyes upon our own!

4. We disguise our vices. We give them false names; we dress them up as virtues and call them such, and really think they are. And this young man who never has earned a dollar in his life by solid, honest industry, takes the money that his father has earned by hard industry and throws it freely, hither and yon, among his fellows, and calls it generosity, and thinks it is. He does not know that it is mean to spend in lavish living what another has toiled to acquire.

5. We change the form of our sin, and then think we are done with it. We think that sin consists in the shape it assumes; we do not know that it consists in the evil heart that beats within. We read our Ten Commandments over and say to ourselves, "Thou shalt not kill." "Thank God we do not live in a murdering age, when men go forth to slay and kill." "Thou shalt not steal." "Thank God there are no robber barons left that ravage the land and leave it desolate." "Thou shalt not commit adultery." "We are in America, and we will have no polygamy under our flag." And still the cry of the children goes up from the slums, and the polluted air squeezes the life out of the little ones, and they die three times as fast as they would in healthy atmosphere, because greed walks the earth. Lust there, as in polygamy. Covetousness there, as in robber barons. Murder there, as in unsheathed swords. We have not ceased to sin because we have changed the form of our sinning.

6. And when we can no longer disguise from ourselves that we are doing wrong, we hide behind all manner of excuses. We say: "Yes, I admit this is not quite right, but everybody does it." Or, "I admit this is not quite according to the Gospel idea], but the Gospel ideals are not practicable in the nineteenth century." Or, "I could not help it; I was made so." And so, little by little, we creep up to that excuse so common in our day: "There is no real moral evil, there is no real sin." What men call sin is only good in the making. It is the greenness of an apple that by and by will be ripe. It is the foolishness of a child who by and by will be wiser. The fall is only a fall upward. Let us not trouble ourselves, therefore, but wait. There is a good God, and by and by He will bring all things right. Think Canada thistles are wheat in the making; think a broken arm is an athlete's arm in the making; think that diphtheria and scarlet fever are health in the making; but do not think that to be estranged, self-willed, and self-indulgent is holiness and righteousness and goodness in the making. But more than of any other class deceive themselves by not thinking about the matter at all. They cast up accounts to see how their finances balance; disease comes into the house, and the doctor inquires as to their health, and so they ascertain their physical health balance, but they never strike a balance in the moral realm. No captain on the Atlantic Ocean will allow twenty-four hours to go by without taking his reckoning, if he can, and finding out where he is. But it will be very strange if in this congregation this Sabbath morning, large as is the proportion of professing Christians, there are not many of us that never have taken an observation and do not know or even ask ourselves what is our moral latitude and longitude.

(Lyman Abbott.)

The seeds of all my sins are in my heart, and perhaps the more dangerous that I do not see them.

(R. McCheyne.)

Motives that seem to you as white as the light may prove, when seen through His prism, to be many coloured. Aims that seem straight as a line may, when tested by the right standard, prove indirect and tortuous. We shall find at last that, in many cases, what we have thought devotion was indevout; what we have thought love was struck through with the taint of selfishness; what we have thought faith was utterly vitiated with the poison of unbelief.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive
I. It is not deliberate hypocrisy that we are (ver. 8) warned against; but a far more SUBTLE FORM OF FALSEHOOD, and one apt more easily to beset us, as believers, even when most earnestly bent on "walking in the light as God is in the light." In its subtlest form it is a kind of mysticism more akin to the visionary cast of ancient and oriental musing than to the more practical turn of thought and feeling that commonly prevails among us. Look at yonder attenuated and etherealised recluse, who has been grasping in successive philosophic systems, or schools of varied theosophic discipline, the means of extricating himself out of the dark bondage of carnal and worldly pollution, and soaring aloft into the light of pure spiritual freedom and repose. After many trials of other schemes, Christianity is embraced by him; not, however, as a discovery of the way in which God proposes to deal with him, but rather as an instrument by which he may deal with himself; a medicine to be self-administered; a remedy to be self-applied. By the laboured imitation of Christ, or by a kind of forced absorption into Christ, considered simply as the perfect or ideal, his soul, emancipated from its bodily shackles and its earthly entanglements, is to reach a height of serene illumination Which no bodily or earthly stain can dim. From such aspirations, the next step, and it is a short one, is into the monstrous fanaticism which would make spiritual illumination compatible with carnal indulgence and worldly lust; his inward and sinless purity being so enshrined in a certain Divine sublimity and transcendentalism of devotion that outward defilement cannot touch it. Church history, beginning even with the apostle's own day, furnishes more than one instance of men thus deplorably "deceiving themselves, saying they have no sin,"

II. As to THE CONFESSION (ver. 9), it is the confession of men "walking in the light, as God is in the light"; having the same medium of vision that God has; it is the continual confession of men continually so walking and so seeing. For the forgiveness, on the faith of which and with a view to which we are thus always to be confessing our sins, will always be found to be a very complete treatment of our case. What is the treatment? The sins we confess are so forgiven that we are cleansed from all unrighteousness with regard to them. The forgiveness is so free, so frank, so full, so unreserved, that it purges our bosom of all reserve, all reticence, all guile; in a word, "of all unrighteousness." And it is so because it is dispensed in faithfulness and righteousness; "He is faithful and just in forgiving our sins." He to whom, as always thus dealing with us, we always thus submit ourselves, is true and righteous in all His ways, and specially in His way of meeting the confidence we place in Him when we confess our sins.

III. If, in the face of such a faithful manner of forgiveness on the part of God, we continue to shrink from that open dealing and guileless confession which our walking in the light as God is in the light implies — we not only wrong ourselves and do violence to our own consciousness and our own conscience; but, "saying that we have not sinned, WE MAKE HIM A LIAR, and His Word is not in us" (ver. 10). To prefer now, even for a single instant, or with reference to a single sin, the miserable comfort of wrapping ourselves in fig leaves and hiding among the trees of the garden, to the unspeakable joy of coming forth and asking God to deal with us according to His own loving faithfulness and righteousness and truth — that surely is a high affront to Him and to His Word, as well as a foolish mistake for ourselves. There can be no fellowship of light between us and Him if such unworthy sentiments of dark suspicion and reserve as this implies are insinuating themselves into our bosoms. Let me rather, taking Him at His word, try the more excellent way of carrying with me always, in the full confidence of loving fellowship, into the secret place of my God, all that is upon my mind, my conscience, nay heart; all that is harassing, or burdening, or tempting me; my present matter of care or subject of thought, whatever that may be. I would keep beck nothing from my God. I will not deceive myself by keeping silence about my sin. I will not make my God a liar — I will not do my God and Father so great a wrong as to give Him the lie — by refusing entrance into my soul to that Word of His which gives light, even the light of life.

(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

I. THE DENIAL OF SIN. "If we say that we have no sin," etc. To the enlightened Christian mind it is a matter of wonder how any sane man could deny his own sinfulness.

1. Some claim an absolute exemption from sin. Such were the Pharisees of old.

2. Some say they have no sin, by claiming a relative exemption from sin. They lay stress upon their religious observances, their morality, their benevolence, their fair dealing, etc.

II. THE CONSEQUENCE OF THIS DENIAL OF SIN. "We deceive ourselves," etc. In worldly matters to be deceived is a grave consideration. For thus to deny our sin is —

1. To deny indisputable facts.

2. To deny the infallible testimony of the Word of God.

3. To deny the moral propriety of the scheme of redemption. The whole need not a physician, etc. No sinner, no Saviour.

III. THE CONFESSION OF SIN. "If we confess our sin," etc.

IV. THE CONSEQUENCE OF CONFESSION OF SIN. " He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

(D. Clark.)

"God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all"; and consequently He cannot have fellowship with darkness. Our tendency to be false is illustrated in the chapter before us, for we find three grades of it there. There is first the man who lies: "If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." We say and do that which is untrue if while abiding under the influence of sin and falsehood we claim to have fellowship with God. If this tendency is unchecked, you will find the man growing worse and doing according to the eighth verse, wherein it is written, "We deceive ourselves." Here the utterer of the falsehood has come to believe his own lie; he has blinded his understanding and befooled his conscience till he has become his own dupe. He will soon reach the complete development of his sin, which is described in the tenth verse, when the man, who first lied, and then, secondly, deceived himself, becomes so audacious in his falseness as to blaspheme the Most Holy by making Him a liar. It is impossible to say where sin will end; the beginning of it is as a little water in which a bird may wash, and scatter half the pool in drops, but in its progress sin, like the brook, swells into a torrent deep and broad. Our only safe course is to come to God as we are, and ask Him to deal with us, in Christ Jesus, according to our actual condition.

I. LET US CONSIDER THE THREE COURSES laid open before us in the text. I will suppose that we are all earnestly anxious to be in fellowship with God. Our deceitful heart suggests to us, first, that we should deny our present sinfulness, and so claim fellowship with God, on the ground that we are holy, and so may draw near to the Holy God. I mind not how honest your parentage, nor how noble your ancestry, there is in you a bias towards evil; your animal passions, nay more, your mental faculties are unhinged and out of order, and unless some power beyond your own shall keep your desires in check, you will soon prove by overt acts of transgression the depravity of your nature. It is not uncommon for others to arrive at the same conclusion by another road. They have attained to the audacity to say that they have no sin by divers feelings and beliefs which they, as a rule, ascribe to the Holy Spirit. Now, if any man says that all tendency to sin is gone from him, that his heart is at all times perfect and his desires always pure, so that he has no sin in him whatsoever, he may have travelled a very different road from the character we just now warned, but he has reached the same conclusion, and we have but one word for both boasters, it is the word of our text — "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Some, however, have reached this position by another route. They plead that though it may be they have sin, yet they are not bad at heart; they look upon sin as a technical term, and though they admit in words that they have sin, yet they practically deny it by saying, "I have a good heart at bottom; I always was well intentioned from the very first. I know I have — of course we all have — erred here and there, but you cannot expect a fellow to be perfect. I can't say I see anything to find fault with." In so saying or feeling you prove that the truth is not in you — you are either deplorably ignorant as to what holiness is, or else you are wilfully uttering a falsehood; in either case the truth is not in you. A fourth sort of persons say the same thing, for albeit they confess that they have sinned, they think themselves now to be in a proper and fit condition to receive pardon. "We have prayed," say they; "we have repented, we have read the Scriptures, we have attended public worship, and are as right as we can be: we have tenderness and contrition, and every right and proper feeling; our wonder is that we do not receive salvation." The idea of fitness is only another form of the vain notion of merit, and it cannot find an inch of foothold in the gospel. True penitents can see nothing in themselves to commend them to mercy, and therefore they cast themselves upon undeserved favour, feeling both unworthy and unfit, but hoping to receive forgiveness freely. The second course which is open to us is the one which I trust the Divine Spirit may lead us to follow, to lay bare our case before God exactly as it stands. "Lord, I own with shame that as my nature is corrupt such has my life been; I am a sinner both by nature and by practice." Make the confession of the two things, of the cause and the effect, of the original depravity — the foul source, and then of the actual sin which is the polluted stream. When a sinner feels he has no natural fitness for receiving the grace of God; when a broken spirit cries, "Oh, what a wretch I am! Not only my past sin but my present feelings disqualify me for the love of God; I seem to be made of hell-hardened steel," he is confessing that sin is in him. It is in your vileness that sovereign grace o'er sin abounding will come to you and cleanse you, and therefore the sooner you come to the honest truth the better for you, for the sooner will you obtain joy and peace through believing in Christ. The text means just this — treat God truthfully, and He will treat you truthfully. The blood of Jesus Christ has made a full atonement, and God will be faithful to that atonement. He will deal with you on the grounds of the covenant of grace, of which the sacrifice of Jesus is the seal, and therein also He will be true to you. Now, there are still some who say, "Well, yes, I think I could go to God in that way, sir, but oh! my past sins prevent me. I could tell Him I am sinful, I could ask Him to renew my nature, I could lay myself bare before Him, but oh 1 my past sins; all might yet be well if I had not so sinned! Ah, that brings out a third course which lies before you, which I hope you will not follow, namely, to deny actual sin. The very thing which you cannot do would seal your doom, for it would lead you to make God a liar, and so His Word could not abide in you.

II. LET US NOW CONSIDER HOW WE CAN FOLLOW THIS COURSE, which is the only right one, namely, to confess our sin. Do not shirk the facts or shrink from knowing their full force, but feel the power of the condemning law. Then recollect your individual sins; recall them one by one — those greater sins, those huge blots upon your character, do not try to forget them. If you have forgotten them, raise them from the grave and think them over, and feel them as your own sins. Think of your sins of omission, your failures in duty, your short, comings in spirit. Repent of what you have done, and what you have not done. Think of your sins of heart. How cold has that heart been towards your Saviour! Your sins of thought, how wrongly your mind has often judged; your sins of imagination, what filthy creatures your imagination has portrayed in lively colours on the wall. Think of all the sins of your desires and delights, and hopes and fears. Let us take care that we confess all. And then let us try to see the heinousness of all sin as an offence against a kind, good, loving God, a sin against a perfect law, intended for our good.

III. LET US CONSIDER WHY WE SHOULD CONFESS SIN.

1. I shall say first, do so because it is right. Religious lie telling is a dreadful thing, and there is plenty of it; but if I could be saved by masking my condition before God, I would not like to be saved in that way.

2. Moreover, upon some of us it is imperative, because we cannot do anything else.

3. Besides, suppose we have tried to appear before God what we are not, God has not been deceived, for He is not mocked.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The apostle had said, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." But who are understood by "us"? Certainly not all men. The impenitent, and unbelieving, and ungodly, have not been cleansed from their sin.

I. CONVICTION OF SIN. "If we say that we have no sin," etc. Many will own they are sinners, and yet think they may come to God as they are, independent of Christ and His blood. They do not say so, but they act so. Listen to their prayers, and they call upon God without any mention of His Son. It is obvious they have no sense of their real position in His sight. They have not entered into the spirit of Christ's words, "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." In this sense they say "they have no sin." The same may be said of their fellowship with Christ. They may think of Him as a model of perfection. But His death does not specially affect them. They attach no peculiar efficacy to the shedding of His blood. And the reason is, they have no adequate sense of their sin. So also as to fellowship with believers. They can meet them as friends, and neighbours, and brethren, but they have no perception of the communion arising out of the blood of Christ. They do not feel either its necessity or influence as a bond of union. Of all such the apostle testifies "they deceive themselves." They are deceived by an imagination of their own excellence, while in reality they are dead in sin. It is said of them farther, "the truth is not in them." Its light may be all around them, but it has never penetrated to the inner man. Such was the condition of the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:17, 18). The same admonition and counsel are applicable to all who have not an adequate idea of their sinfulness, such an idea as to make them feel that their only hope is the blood of Christ.

II. CONFESSION OF SIN. "If we confess," etc. There is a close and natural connection between conviction and confession. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." If the heart be touched by a sense of sin it cannot be restrained from pouring forth the accents of humiliation. What are the features of such confession? It is sincere, coming from the heart. It is full, no attempt being made to hide anything from God or ourselves. It is special, not satisfied with acknowledging sin generally, but noting special offences and dwelling on their aggravations. It fills the mind with grief for sin. It rouses to the hatred of it. It constrains to an immediate and total abandonment of it. It is such as was exemplified by David (Psalm 2). To such confession there is the most gracious encouragement in the text, "If we confess our sins." This is all we are required to do. We are not sent on some toilsome pilgrimage, or subjected to some round of self-mortification. We are to come to God as we are — now — and with the whole burden of our sin upon our hearts. Then God is "faithful to forgive us our sins." He has said in His Word "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." It is not presumption, therefore, to expect pardon on confession. On the contrary, it is distrust of God to doubt it. And observe the gracious yet warning words that follow, "and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." They are designed to meet the jealousy of the awakened soul. We are taught that God will accompany His pardon with sanctifying grace. Our plan would be to put purity first and pardon next. But God's plan is the reverse. We are to accept pardon at once, and it will be accompanied and followed by holiness.

III. HABITUAL PENITENCE FOR SIN. "If we say we have not sinned," etc. Observe the difference between this verse and the eighth. There the expression is, "if we say we have no sin"; here it is, "if we say that we have not sinned." The former describes the condition of the man who does not feel his present sinfulness, the latter of him who justifies his past conduct. The former needs to be convinced of his sinfulness, the latter to be exercised aright about his past transgressions. In the one verse there is reference to the beginning of the Divine life, in the other to the maintenance of it. The one consists in the conviction which brings the sinner to the blood of Christ for salvation, the other in the habit of penitence which must accompany him as long as he lives. Let me exhort you to cultivate this habit. Many important ends are served by it. It will keep us mindful of what we once were, and of how much we are debtors to Divine grace. It will stimulate us to devote ourselves more unreservedly to God in the future. It will promote watchfulness against temptation. It will strengthen faith. Calling to mind how graciously God dealt with us in other days, we are encouraged to trust Him to the end. It will kindle repentance. Like Ephraim of old, it will lead us to say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" It will promote holiness. It will urge perseverance.

(James Morgan, D. D.)

There are two ways in which men are wont to make confession of their sins, which appear to my mind the same as making no true confession at all. One is to acknowledge sin, in general terms, as a customary and proper part of public, domestic, or private devotion, but without any accompanying feeling of contrition, desire of amendment, or even thought of personal application. The other is to confess our sinfulness in such extravagant terms that the force of the confession is destroyed by its palpable discordance with nature and truth. It is to confess that we are all utterly vile and abominable. In a common congregation of worshippers such language is senseless and nugatory. It is so, because it is felt to be inapplicable, even by those who think it religious to use and assent to it.

I. DO WE THEN SAY THAT WE HAVE NO SIN? Certainly not. If we say so, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. There is not one of us who will not see loads of sin pressing heavily upon his life if he will send his reflections back and impartially retrace its history.

1. We can all of us look back on our childhood. And what see we there? Perfect innocence, spotless virtue, blameless affections? Who is there of us who never caused his parents' hearts to ache — I do not mean ignorantly, but knowingly and recklessly?

2. Is our survey more or less satisfactory, do our reflections become more or less gratifying, when we leave the days of our childhood and come forward to those of our youth? Youth is life's seedtime. Did we prepare ourselves for the harvest as we ought to have done? Did we acquire all the knowledge that was within our reach? What attention did we pay to the formation of our character? Did we guard it anxiously, and mould it carefully, and keep it away from polluting influences, and lay strong foundations for it, and build it up, and beautify it, after the best and purest models; or did we give it over to chance, to custom, and to the world? Did our Maker have as much of our time, thoughts, desires and obedience as was due to Him?

3. And I call on those who have advanced into the middle regions of life to say whether, when youth passed away, folly and sin went with it, and left their maturer years to the peaceful and undisturbed dominion of wisdom and virtue. Have they acquired such habitual self-command that they constantly and willingly obey the commandments of God? Do they walk within their houses with perfect hearts? Do they never take a hard and griping advantage of their neighbour's weakness, or ignorance, or necessity?

II. WHAT THEN WILL BE THE EFFECT OF A TRUE CONFESSION OF SIN? The mere verbal confession of sin can be of no possible benefit to us; can do us no more good than the repetition of any other words, with or without meaning. But if our confession is accompanied by a sincere conviction of sin, we shall be forgiven and cleansed by a faithful and just God. There is nothing vindictive in the government of God. We shall not be made to suffer for sins which we have renounced, and which our spirit now looks upon with abhorrence, as foreign and hateful to it. The character which we have formed here will accompany us to the unseen world; and as it has worked out our pardon here, so has it prepared for us eternal felicity.

(F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)

Prayer (in the wide sense of the word) is a varied melody, now rising, now falling upon the ear. It has its bass notes and its high notes, its plaintive cadences and its jubilant cadences, or (to transfer the imagery from the domain of sound to that of sight), it has its gleams of sunlight and its depths of shadow. It is with the low and plaintive cadences of prayer that we purpose to deal, in other words, we shall speak of confession of sin.

I. Confession of sin should be A REAL ELEMENT IN THE DEVOTIONAL SYSTEM OF EACH ONE OF US. Confession is nothing more nor less than the practical recognition of our sinfulness and of our sins. Now both our sinfulness and our sins are always with us in this life. As saith the Scripture, "There is no man that sinneth not."

II. If Confession is to become in reality part and parcel of the religious system of each individual — if it is to enter as an element into his devotion — IT MUST NOT BE POINTLESS AND VAGUE, BUT DEFINITE AND PRECISE. It must turn upon those particular faults of conduct and character, of which we are personally conscious. It must aim, not merely at bringing to light erroneous conduct, but at ascertaining the general drift and current of our character. It must not rest contented with a general survey of our faults; but must unmask, if possible, the ruling passion. But it may be asked, Does not our Church place in the forefront of her public worship a general confession; a confession whose ample terms embrace all mankind universally, and which seems to eschew all details of wrong sentiment and wrong action? No doubt she does so; but her intention, here and elsewhere in her formularies, is that under the general expression should be represented in the mind of each individual that individual's case. Each man is to glance mentally at his own sins as he repeats the general confession; at his own wants as he follows the collects and Lord's Prayer; at his own mercies as he follows the general thanksgiving. It is to be found in that ordinance of the Levitical law, which prescribes the expiation of the sin of the whole congregation of Israel. In every genuine act of public confession, hearts from all quarters encircle the Victim, and bring each one its own burden and each one its own bitterness, to lay it with the outstretched hand of faith on that sacred and devoted Head.

III. BUT DOES THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND RECOMMEND TO HER SONS AND DAUGHTERS IN THE MATTER OF CONFESSION NOTHING OF A MORE SPECIFIC CHARACTER THAN WHAT WE HAVE ANNOUNCED? What the Prayer book says amounts to this: "If, on examination of your state of health, you find yourself sick, I recommend your seeking out and resorting to a discreet and learned physician." The implication clearly is, whatever some devout and good men may have conceived to the contrary, that, if we find ourselves well, or at least able to treat our own case, we shall not resort to him. Is not this the plain rule of reason in the analogous case of the treatment of the body? I am not ignorant of the answer which may be made. Is there "my one of us, our opponents ask triumphantly, who enjoys spiritual health, who has not a sin-sick soul — any one of us who has not to take up into his mouth this testimony respecting himself, "There is no health in me?" Then, if all be spiritual invalids, all should resort regularly and habitually to the physician. We reply by admitting fully that every soul of man is sinful, and as such has in it the seeds of spiritual disease. But this is a totally different thing from saying that every conscience of man is morbid, perplexed with scruples, agitated with timid doubts, and unable by God's grace to guide itself. Confession to our Lord Jesus Christ, and that self-scrutiny which must precede it, are most healthful practices; but they require to have their tendencies counterbalanced and held in equipoise by devotional exercises of a contrary kind. Self-introspection may easily, and will certainly, become morbid if it be not checked by a constant outlooking of the mind. Look into yourself to see your own vileness, look out of yourself to Christ. The knowledge and deep consciousness of thy dark guilt is only valuable as a background on which to paint more vividly to thy mind's eye the rainbow colours of the love of Jesus. Walk abroad ever and anon, and expatiate freely in the sunlight of God's grace and love in Christ. A religion, if it is to be strong, must be joyous; and joyous it cannot be without the light of God's love in Christ shining freely into every corner of the soul.

(Dean Goulburn.)

Suppose the case of a man, the victim of a mortal disease, yet clinging eagerly to life: that man may find comfort from persuading himself that his complaint is but trifling and will speedily disappear; this is a false, deceitful comfort. Or he may derive comfort from knowing that, though his complaint be in itself deadly, yet he has at hand an infallible specific, in the use of which his disease will be eradicated, and his health restored. This is a true and solid comfort. It is even so in the concerns of the soul. The sinner may find comfort from trying to persuade himself that his sins, if any, are inconsiderable, and do not seriously affect the safety of the soul. This is a false and unscriptural source of comfort. Or else he may have a deep, overwhelming sense of his own vileness, of his naturally guilty, hopeless state, and yet be comforted by the assurance of God's forgiving love in Christ. This is a sure, Scriptural, and solid ground of comfort.

I. THERE IS A FALSE GROUND OF COMFORT THAT IS HERE CONDEMNED. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." While all, in so many words, allow that they are sinners, yet very many so qualify that confession as in effect to say "that they have no sin."

1. One, for example, when appealed to, says, "Oh, I know, of course, that I'm a sinner. All are sinners, but I'm not a great sinner. I am not, perhaps, what I ought to be; I have no doubt done many things that were wrong. Everyone does the same; but I have committed no sin of a gross or heinous character."

2. Others, while admitting that they are sinners — grievous sinners — yet so extenuate and explain away their sins as virtually to affirm that they "have no sin." They have done very wickedly; but then it has been through surprise, or ignorance, or the influence of others: the temptation has been so strong, and their natural weakness so great, that they were overcome; they had, however, no deliberately wicked purpose, and God will, they trust, on that ground, mercifully overlook their sins.

3. Others, again, while admitting that their sins are neither few nor trifling, yet trust that their good deeds so preponderate as that God will in His mercy overlook what they have done amiss. They open a kind of debtor and creditor account with heaven. May it not be feared that much of almsgiving, much of attendance at the house of God, and at sacraments, is to be ascribed to motives not very different from these?

II. "IF WE CONFESS OUR SINS, HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST TO FORGIVE US OUR SINS." The confession here meant must be, of course, not a mere cold and formal one — the mere confession of the lip. No; it must be sincere and earnest, the unveiling of the heart to Him "to whom all hearts be open." It must, furthermore, be penitent and contrite; we must be taught to mourn over sin. We must confess our sins, then, with a sincere, penitent, believing heart; and, if so, "God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." But are not God's faithfulness and justice pledged to punish sin and to destroy the sinner? Yes, out of Christ it is so, but in Christ God stands to the sinner in a new covenant relationship, and He who was "faithful and just" to destroy is, in Christ, "faithful and just to forgive us our sins." God is "faithful to forgive"; for God has promised, through Christ, forgiveness to the believing penitent; and "He is faithful that promised."

(W. A. Cornwall, M. A.)

If we say that we have no sin, we sin in saying so, for we give God the lie (ver. 10).

I. THE NECESSITY OF CONFESSION. If we confess God will forgive, not otherwise. Though we cannot of ourselves avoid those sins without the grace of God, yet we might, if we would have that grace which would enable us to avoid them. And if man hath not this grace of God, the want is not in God, but in ourselves. Our confession must be with a purpose of obedience for the time to come. Not everyone that confesseth, "but he that confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy."

II. WHERE IS ANY TO TAKE OUR CONFESSIONS? Here is none in the text to confess to, if we had a mind to it. None indeed expressly named, but here is one plainly enough described, that can pardon our sins and purge us from all our iniquities; to whom can we better confess than to Him that hath the power of absolution? Would you know who this He is? "I, even I," saith God, "am He who blotteth out all your iniquities, and that forgiveth your sins" (Isaiah 43:25).

(Bp. Sparrow.)

I. CONFESSION OF SIN. WHAT IS IT? Everyone admits, in a general way, that confession of sin is a necessary condition of forgiveness. But in how many cases is this confession altogether unreal!

1. Every sin must be confessed. We must deal honestly with God. We must tell Him all that is in our hearts.

2. No sin must be excused. It must be confessed precisely as it is. Nothing must be added to it, nothing taken from it; there must be no false or affected exaggeration, and still less must there be any attempt at palliation.

3. Sin when once confessed must be at once forsaken. Joined with this inward abandonment of sin there must of necessity be the outward abandonment also. We must forsake our sins, both in disposition and in action. We must forsake our sin and follow righteousness.

II. FORGIVENESS OF SINS AND CLEANSING FROM UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. God bestows this double blessing on those who confess their sins. Two benefits are spoken of; yet, though separable in idea, they are not divided in fact.

1. Forgiveness of sins. To understand what this is we must consider what effects sin produces on those who commit it in their relations towards God.

(1)It calls forth the anger of God.

(2)It condemns the sinner to the punishment of death. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die"; "the wages of sin is death."

2. Cleansing from unrighteousness is the second benefit which God bestows on those who confess their sins. Righteousness is not only imputed to us, it is also implanted within us. We are renewed unto righteousness.

III. THE CERTAINTY THAT WHERE SIN IS CONFESSED, IT WILL BE FORGIVEN AND CLEANSED AWAY.

1. Because He is faithful. God is always true to Himself; He cannot deny Himself. One is true to himself when he does that which he must do, according to the constitution of his whole being. And so it is with God..."God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all"; He is only, altogether, and always, Light; He must, therefore, ever manifest Himself as such. He has bound Himself to us by His covenant of mercy, and His covenant is inviolable. If we confess our sins, we are walking in the Light; and God, who is Light, cannot deny Him self, cannot prove unfaithful to that fellowship of Light.

2. But, again, our confidence rests not only upon the faithfulness of God, but also upon His righteous ness. The righteousness of God not only prompts Him to punish unrighteousness; it also prompts Him to cleanse and deliver from unrighteousness. And surely, if the righteousness of God is vindicated and magnified in the punishment of men for their unrighteousness, much more thoroughly is it vindicated, and much more illustriously is it magnified, in delivering men from their unrighteousness. Have we not here a hopeless schism, a division of righteousness against itself? The solution of this problem depends on the following considerations:(1) All things are possible with God. His resources are infinite. His wisdom is unsearchable. We may be sure that He is able to solve the problem, that He is able to meet and satisfy both demands of righteousness.(2) God, in His manifold wisdom, has solved the problem. The Cross of Christ, the death of God's Son, supplies a full answer to every question. Righteousness has been satisfied, in all its requirements, by the sacrifice which was offered once for all on the accursed tree. All unrighteousness of men has been judged, condemned, and punished in the death of Christ; all unrighteousness of men has been abolished, cleansed, and purged away in the death of Christ.(3) But, again, both aspects of righteousness are conserved by the way in which we become partakers of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. It is, as we have seen, by confession of our sins that we attain this. Now, when we confess our sins we do two things, we condemn our sins, and we renounce them. We cease to yield our members as weapons of unrighteousness unto sin; we henceforth yield our members as weapons of righteousness unto God. Being made free from sin, we become the servants of righteousness. All this is brought about through our being made partakers of Christ's death.

(J. J. Glen-Kippen.)

I. Confession must be PARTICULAR. While you confess only in general terms, you confess others' sins rather than yours; but this is it to descend into our own hearts, and find out our just and real debt; to charge ourselves as narrowly as we can, that He may discharge us fully, and forgive us freely.

II. Confession must be UNIVERSAL, that is, of all sin, without partiality or respect to any sin. I doubt if a man can truly repent of any sin, except he in a manner repent of all sin, or truly forsake one sin, except there be a divorcement of the heart from and forsaking of all sin; therefore the apostle saith, "If we confess our sins," not sin taking in all the body and collection of them. Then there lies a necessity upon us to confess what we have; we have all sin, and so should confess all sins.

III. Confession should be PERPETUATED AND CONTINUED as long as we are in this life. That stream of corruption runs continually, let the stream of your contrition and confession run as incessantly; and there is another stream of Christ's blood, that runs constantly too, to cleanse you.

(H. Binning.)

If you have done wrong, don't go days and weeks under conviction of sin. Suppose that I had lied to my partner in business. Suppose he were to charge it upon me, and I were to try to evade the matter, and were to oblige him to chase me through a whole week, until at last he cornered me so closely that, seeing escape to be impossible, I gave in, and said, "Well, I have lied, and I am sorry," just because I could not help yielding. How mean a spirit should I thus show! How much better if, upon sudden press of temptation I had sinned, for me to stop at once when the lie was charged upon me, and say honestly, blushing with shame, "Yes, I am wrong, all wrong. I am sorry, and will do so no more." Why will not men, when they see their guilt and danger, face right about, and make short work with themselves?

(H. W. Beecher.)

Pastor R., of Elberfeld, was once sent for to see a dying man. He found the patient really very ill, and entered at once into an earnest conversation about the state of his soul. The patient began, in the strongest terms, to describe himself as the very chief of sinners, and declared that his past life filled him with abhorrence. He continued so long in this strain that the pastor could scarcely find an opportunity to speak. At last, taking advantage of a pause, he remarked gently, "It was then really true what I heard of you?" The patient raised himself in the bed, stared in astonishment at the pastor, and demanded, "What, then, have you heard? No one, in truth, can say anything against me;" and continued, in a strain of unbounded self-satisfaction, to tell of his virtues, and recount all his good deeds, pouring out at the same time a torrent of execrations against the slanderers who had tried to injure his character. "It was not from foes or slanderers," said the pastor, "that I heard it, but from yourself; and now it grieves me to hear that you do not believe what you said."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Consciousness of sin in every man. Hence the inevitable need of forgiveness. Is there any answer on the part of God to this need? Current answers —

1. He never forgives: He cannot, in the nature of the case. Moral forces are as irresistible, moral laws as inexorable as physical laws. The man who breaks law must take the consequences. This is the answer of the positivist and the Deist. A terrible response to our keen need.

2. He forgives capriciously: Those born of good parents, who have lived in Christian society, who have a fortunate mental constitution, who have done nothing flagrantly bad, such are forgiven. This answer is still more terrible than the other; it shows favour to those who have had better opportunities. It cannot be admitted.

3. He forgives universally: without reference to circumstances, or distinction of character, because He is kind. This is the worst answer of all. By it moral law is aunulled, and chaos comes into the spiritual universe. God ceases to have regard to His holiness. It is incredible that this should be the answer to man's need of forgiveness.

4. The answer of the gospel: God forgives universally on the ground of the atonement, on the condition of repentance and faith. This answer suits God's character and man's need. It makes forgiveness attainable, and upholds moral order. It shows the preciousness of the Bible, argues its Divine origin, the privilege of accepting God's offer, and the infinite hazard of neglecting or refusing it.

(R. S. Storrs.)

(with Romans 3:27): — When the soul is seriously impressed with the conviction of its guilt, it is afraid of God. It dreads at that time every attribute of Divinity. But most of all the sinner is afraid of God's justice. The sinner is right in his conviction that God is just, and he is moreover right in the inference which follows from it, that because God is just his sin must be punished. Except through the gospel, justice is thine antagonist. It cannot suffer thee to enter heaven, for thou hast sinned. Is it possible, then, that the sinner cannot be saved? This is the great riddle of the law, and the grand discovery of the gospel.

I. HOW HAS JUSTICE BEEN PUT ASIDE? OR RATHER, HOW HAS IT BEEN SO SATISFIED THAT IT NO LONGER STANDS IN THE WAY OF GOD'S JUSTIFYING THE SINNER? And through that second representative of manhood, Jesus, the second Adam, God is now able and willing to forgive the vilest and justify even the ungodly, and He is able to do so without the slightest violation of His justice.

1. Note the dignity of the victim who offered Himself up to Divine justice.

2. Think of the relationship which Jesus Christ had towards the great Judge of all the earth, and then you will see again that the law must have been fully satisfied thereby.

3. Furthermore, consider how terrible were the agonies of Christ, which, mark you, He endured in the stead of all poor penitent sinners, of all those who confess their gins and believe in Him; I say when you mark these agonies, you will readily see why justice does not stand in the sinner's way.

II. IT IS AN ACT OF JUSTICE ON GOD'S PART TO FOIL, GIVE THE SINNER WHO MAKES A CONFESSION OF HIS SIN TO GOD. The same Justice that just now stood with a fiery sword in his hand, like the cherubim of old keeping the way of the tree of life, now goes hand in hand with the sinner. "Sinner," he says, "I will go with thee. When thou goest to plead for pardon I will go and plead for thee. Once I spoke against thee; but now I am so satisfied with what Christ has done that I will go with thee and plead for thee. I will not say a word to oppose thy pardon, but I will go with thee and demand it. It is but an act of justice that God should now forgive." Sinner! go to God with a promise in your hand "Lord, thou hast said, 'He that confesseth his sin, and forsaketh it, shall find mercy.' I confess my sin, and I forsake it: Lord, give me mercy!" Don't doubt but that God will give it you. Take that pledge and that bond before His throne of mercy, and that bond never shall be cancelled till it has been honoured. But, again, not only did God make the promise, but according to the text man has been induced to act upon it; and, therefore, this becomes a double bond upon the justice of God. Do you imagine when God has brought you through much pain and agony of mind to repent of sin, to give up self-righteousness, and rely on Christ, He will afterwards turn round and tell you He did not mean what He said? It cannot be. No, He is a just God, "Faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." One more aspect of this case. God's justice demands that the sinner should be forgiven if he seeks mercy, for this reason: Christ died on purpose to secure pardon for every seeking soul. Now, I hold it to be an axiom that whatever Christ died for he will have.

III. I must just enter into some little EXPLANATION OF THE TWO GREAT DUTIES THAT ARE TAUGHT IN THE TWO TEXTS. The first duty is faith — "believeth in Christ"; the second text is confession — "if we confess our sins." I will begin with confession first. Whenever grace comes into the heart it will lead you to make amends for "my injury which you have done either by word or deed to any of your fellow men; and you cannot expect that you shall ,be forgiven of God until you have forgiven men, and have been ready to make peace with those who are now your enemies. If you have done aught, then, against any man, leave thy gift before the altar, and go and make peace with him, and then come and make peace with God. You are to make confession of your sin to God. Let that be humble and sincere. Then the next duty is faith. "Whosoever believeth on the Son of God hath eternal life, and shall never come into condemnation."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Any consideration of the justice of forgiveness must be based upon a true estimate of what sin is, and what punishment is. We must clearly recognise that sin is evil in itself and in its inherent effects and not merely evil by the arbitrary decree of the lawgiver. Sin is that which is absolutely bad for man, and generally speaking it is not bad because forbidden, but forbidden because bad. When man sins he is doing something unworthy of himself, something contrary to nature, (if by nature we understand the original nature in which God first created him). Sin being thus man's evil, the good God, because He is good, will do all that is possible to keep His children from sin. And one of the ways of keeping man from sin is by ordaining punishment for sin. Punishment is made conditional on sin in three ways. Sometimes it is simply a sentence pronounced upon sin by arbitrary decree. Sometimes it is the fruit of sin, growing out of and resulting from the sin, in the nature of things. Sometimes it is the sin itself intensified, robbed of its pleasure and pressed as a burden and a curse upon the man. For example: if a schoolboy is habitually idle and neglects his studies we may trace out a retribution connected with the sin in each of these three several ways.

1. The master punishes the boy for his idleness. This is a punishment which conies a simple sentence upon the sin, not as a natural or necessary consequence of the sin.

2. A worse retribution comes upon the boy when he grows up. He finds himself not fitted for the position in life which he might have occupied if he had had a better education.

3. He may experience a still more terrible punishment, he did not learn industry at school and his idleness clings to him all his life. Thus he has a triple punishment. I may give you from the Bible an allusion to each of these. For the first case we have the sentence pronounced upon the murderer in Genesis (Genesis 9:6). For the second we may think of idleness leading to want, that natural law endorsed by St. Paul when he wrote (2 Thessalonians 2:10). For the third we may take the solemn sentence (Revelation 22:11). With this third class of punishment the human legislator and the human judge have little or nothing to do. God alone can make sin to be its own punishment. With the second class the legislator rather than the judge is concerned, lest unwise legislation should promote wrong doing by viciously shielding the offender from the natural consequences of his sin. The first class of punishment, attending upon the wisdom of the lawgiver and the sentence of the judge, is that which man can ordinarily inflict or remit. And it is in studying the application of such punishment that we shall find that human justice which is to be a light to show us something of Divine justice. God's ordinance in punishment may operate to keep men from sin in either of two ways:(1) by exhibiting God's sense of the badness of sin, and so training men to see for themselves the badness of sin, and to avoid it; or(2) by holding forth retribution as a terror, that those who are too degraded to recognise the evil of sin may be deterred from sin by fear of the evil which they do recognise, the evil of pain or loss. This is the purpose of righteous punishment. However wicked a person may be, to inflict pain or loss upon him, which is not calculated to do some good in the way of remedying sin, either by reforming the particular offender or by deterring others from wrong, would be torture, not correction, cruelty and not righteousness. It follows that if the end which punishment is designed to accomplish has been attained by some other means, punishment becomes unrighteous, for it is only the end which justifies our infliction of pain or loss; upon our brother. If no good will come either to the individual or to the world from our inflicting the punishment, it is right to remit the punishment. This surely must be the key to our interpretation of the statement that God is righteous or just to forgive us our sins. If His justice is analogous to man's justice then His purpose in punishment is to exhibit His own sense of the sinfulness of sin and to deter from sin. It is plain that before He can remit the punishment which we deserve, some other means must be taken to show the world how God esteems sin. It is plain that the lesson of God's true regard for sin must be learned by the sinner, and it must produce in him the penitence which will restrain him from sin. A simple gospel of the forgiveness of the penitent without the death of Christ would not have fulfilled these three conditions. If the gospel proclaims the remission of the punishment which was to evidence God's condemnation of sin, this evidence must be displayed to the world in some other way. It is displayed from the Cross of Christ. God exhibits the deathliness of sin, not in the death of the sinner but in the death of Christ. But the sinner to be forgiven must have learnt this lesson. Here you see the necessity of faith in Christ crucified as a condition of pardon. And your faith in the Cross must produce penitence: otherwise there is nothing to supply the place of punishment to deter from sin. But it is obvious that if the final penalty of sin is not merely attached to it by arbitrary decree, but is something which follows as the fruit and consequence of sin, the pardon which is given us must be something more than an arbitrary warrant of acquittal; it must involve in some way a change in our spiritual growth and bearing; for the fig tree cannot bear olive berries neither the vine figs, nor can sin grow into holiness nor a wicked heart bear fruit unto eternal life. This teaches us again that repentance is an absolute necessity as a condition of pardon. Perhaps we may sometimes have thought of repentance as a condition arbitrarily imposed: we may have said that God does not choose to forgive us unless we repent. But in the light of our present consideration this would seem to be an imperfect statement of the case. We must rather say that in the nature of things (if punishment is the growth and fruit of sin) there can be no such thing as the remission of punishment without a change — a conversion — of the man. It is this thought of sin becoming ultimately its own punishment that stands in the way of a belief in a universal restoration, a universal salvation. But even if we take the other view of hell and think of it simply as pain arbitrarily imposed as a penalty for sin and capable of being arbitrarily withdrawn, there is yet an objection to our believing in any ultimate restoration. We might, of course, believe that when a sufficiency of punishment has been inflicted, the soul might then be delivered from hell. But what then? If it be still evil, it will be a hell TO ITSELF. Yet again, the good God will do all that may be for us; for He is just to forgive us our sins. But it may be said — if the forgiveness of our sins is thus a matter of justice, what have we to do with prayer for pardon? God will forgive us if it is right: He will not forgive us if it is not right to forgive us. What is the use of confession and prayer? The answer is, that the right or wrong of forgiveness depends on the disposition of the sinner. Has he or has he not learned the lesson of the Cross? Is he or is he not firmly convinced of the deathliness of sin? that it is an evil upon which God cannot look with indifference? that it is and ever must be the object of God's wrath and condemnation? And if the sinner is in that state of heart and mind which makes forgiveness fit for him, then confession and prayer are the spontaneous expression of his penitence.

(W. A. Whitworth, M. A.)

In a conversation which the Rev. Mr. Innes had with an infidel on his sick bed, he told him that when he was taken ill he thought he would rely on the general mercy of God; that as he had never done anything very bad, he hoped all would be well. "But as my weakness increased," he added, "I began to think, 'Is not God a just being as well as merciful? Now what reason have I to think He will treat me with mercy, and not with justice?' and if I am treated with justice," he said, with much emotion, "WHERE AM I?" "I showed him," says Mr. Innes, "that this was the very difficulty the gospel was sent to remove, as it showed how mercy could be exercised in perfect consistency with the strictest demands of justice, while it was bestowed through the atonement made by Jesus Christ. After explaining this doctrine, and pressing it on his attention and acceptance, one of the last things he said to me before leaving him was, 'Well, I believe it must come to this. I confess I see here a solid footing to rest on, which, on my former principles, I could never find.'"

(K. Arvine.)

The trees and the fields are clothed new every year in the freshest and purest hues. In the spring all the colours are bright and clean. As the summer goes on the leaves get dark and grimy. Sometimes a shower of rain makes them a little fresher, but they are soon dirtier than ever again. They all fall in the winter: The tree cannot cleanse its own leaves, dirty with the city's smoke, but God in His own time cleanses it, and gives it an entirely new suit. The little rain cleansings, soon to be dirtied again, are the partial reformations which men make for themselves, saying: "I will stop this habit, or that other. I will be a better man" — yet not doing it in God's strength. The new white robe which God gives the trees is the robe of Christ's righteousness. The difference is that in the eternal kingdom our robe of Christ's righteousness will never be soiled, for there is none of the defilement of the earth.

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