Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed…
These words imply, in the first place, that our religious life is not an isolated thing between each man and God, with which no other man has anything to do. All Christians are members of a body. If they come much in contact they are nearly related members. And no one has a right to fancy that his faults concern himself alone, and that no one else has an interest in his being a good man. The text implies further that we may get much help by being open about our faults. The apostle goes on to say, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed." Prayer is a means by which every one can help his neighbour, and prayer is not the only means, but only one amongst many. Our friends can give us sympathy; can sometimes give us advice; can always give us encouragement; very often a friend's experience will help out ours, and make us see more clearly than we could do alone that we ought to do. But the chief benefit of being ready to confess faults which our conscience urges us to confess is, that we clear our own minds and strengthen our own wills. In the first place, a concealed fault has a most extraordinary power of infecting the whole character. The sin, while it is concealed, seems to enter into all you think or do. It seems to be a part of yourself. You cannot say, "It is not I that did it, but sin that dwelleth in me." No, the fact of your concealing it seems to make it peculiarly your own. It is not your fault merely; it is you. And all that comes from you partakes of it. All this is changed the moment you have told it. The act of telling it seems as it were to circumscribe it within its own proper limits. It is wrong; but there is the whole of it clearly in view. It no longer affects the rest of you or of your life. You have not got rid of it by telling of it. But you have got rid of this infection which it formerly carried with it. You have shut it up within itself. You have separated yourself from it, and it from yourself. Again, closely connected with this is the fact that a concealed fault lays a peculiar and very heavy burden on the soul. Over and above the remorse for the fault itself, the shame of having it hid in the heart, and unknown even to dear friends, always makes the hider feel as if he were acting a lie; and he despises himself in the midst of every word of praise that he may win. And, once more, confessing the fault pledges the will to try to prevent a return of it, and no other pledge is equally strong. The resolution of the man who is hiding within him the memory of wrong is sure to be weak, wavering, fitful. The resolution of the man, whose repentance has been stamped and marked by confession, is clear and strong. However weak he feels, he feels, too, that he knows what he has to do and means to do it. And all this applies particularly to secret faults, which are hidden from all eyes but those of the doers. But much of it applies also to faults which are not hidden; but being known to all who know us intimately, yet are not confessed to be faults. There is a great difference between the repentance which simply endeavours to change, and that which not only endeavours to do so, but openly yet humbly confesses that it means to do so. Two questions remain: To whom you should confess your faults? and how? And both of these questions must be left very much to your own judgment. As a general rule, it may be said that one great duty of intimate friends is to supply each other with that help which Christian sympathy can give. A man has almost always among this friends some one, to whom he would not be utterly unwilling to tell all that lies on his own conscience. There may be some matters that require more experienced advice. There are some confessions which we are bound to make, not for the sake of ourselves and for our own spiritual improvement, but for the sake of justice: thus, for instance, if you have either purposely or unintentionally accused your neighbour falsely, it is to himself that you are bound to make the confession. All these points must be left to your own decision. So, again, it must be left to your own judgment how you will confess a fault. Nothing is more mischievous than to confess it in any such way as to give yourself a pleasure in doing so.
Parallel VersesKJV: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.