“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)
From: The Pen of J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)
Without confession there is no inward peace. Conscience will never be at rest so long as it feels the burden of unacknowledged transgression. It is a load of which man must get rid if he means to be really happy. It is a worm at the root of all comfort. It is a blìght on joy and mirth. . . .
Who are they that ought to confess sins?
I answer this question in one plain sentence. All men and women in the world. All are born in sin and children of wrath. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Before God all are guilty. “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” There is not a child of Adam that ought not to confess sin (Ephes. ii. 3; Rom. iii. 23; Eccles. vii. 20).
There is no exception to this rule. It does not apply only to murderers, and felons, and the inmates of prisons. It applies to all ranks, and classes, and orders of mankind.
Some people are too proud to acknowledge themselves sinners. Like the Pharisee of old, they flatter themselves they are “not as other men.” They do not get drunk, like some; or swear, like others; or live profligate lives like others. They are moral and respectable! They perform the duties of their station! They attend church regularly! They are kind to the poor! What more would you have? If they are not good people and going to heaven, who can be saved? But as to habitual confession of sin, they do not see that they need it. It is all very well for wicked people, but not for them. Of course when sin is not really felt, sin will never be confessed. . . .
Reader, shall I tell you my first and foremost wish for your soul, if you are yet unconverted? I can wish you nothing better than thorough self-knowledge. I should like the veil to be taken from your heart. I should like you to see yourself as you really are in the sight of God. Ignorance of self and sin is the root of all mischief to the soul. There is hardly a religious error or a false doctrine that may not be traced up to it. For want of seeing sin, men do not value salvation. Once let a man get a sight of his own heart, and be will begin to cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner …!”
To whom ought confession of sin to be made …?
Sin, to speak generally, ought to be confessed to God. He it is whom we have chiefly offended. His are the laws which we have broken. To him all men and women will one day give account. His displeasure is that which sinners have principally to fear. This is what David felt: “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight” (Psalm li. 4). . . .
Can vile sinners like us ever dare to confess our sins to a holy God? Will not the thought of his infinite purity shut our mouths and make us afraid? Must not the remembrance of His holiness make us afraid? Is it not written of God, that He is ” of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity?” (Hab. i. 13) Is it not said, that He “hates all workers of iniquity?” (Psalm v. 5) Did He not say to Moses, “There shalt no man see My face and live …?” (Exodus xxxiii. 20)
I say then that sin ought to be confessed to God in Christ. I say that sin ought specially to be confessed to God manifest in the flesh,-to Christ Jesus the Lord,-to that Jesus who came into the world to save sinners,-to that Jesus who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification, and now lives at the right hand of God to intercede for all who come to God by Him. He that desires to confess sin, should apply direct to Christ.
Christ is a great High Priest. Let that truth sink down into our hearts, and never be forgotten. He is sealed and appointed by God the Father for that very purpose. It is His peculiar office to receive and hear, and pardon and absolve sinners. It is His place to receive confessions and to grant plenary absolutions. . . .
Christ is a High Priest of Almighty power. There is no sin that He cannot pardon, and no sinner that He cannot absolve. He is very God of very God. He is “over all, God blessed for ever.” He says Himself, “I and My Father are one.” He has “all power in heaven and in earth.” He has “power on earth to forgive sins. . . .”
Christ is a High Priest of infinite willingness to receive confession of sin. He invites all who feel their guilt to come to Him for relief. “Come unto Me,” He says, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” When the penitent thief cried to Him on the cross, He at once absolved him fully, and gave him an answer of peace (Matt. xi. 28; John vii. 37).
Christ is a High Priest of perfect knowledge. He knows exactly the whole history of all who confess to Him. From Him no secrets are hid. He never errs in judgment. He makes no mistakes. . . .
Go this very day to the throne of grace, and speak to the great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, about your soul. Pour out your heart before Him. Keep nothing back from Him. Acknowledge your iniquities to Him, and entreat Him to cleanse them away. (“Do You Confess?”, Drummond’s Track Depot)