The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Specific confession of specific sins

with 3 comments

I cannot recall which of the Puritans said it, but the counsel he gave was to repent particularly of particular sins. It struck me at the time I read it, and I came across the same sentiment recently in McIntyre’s The Hidden Life of Prayer (Westminster/Amazon.co.uk/.com). I know of men and women who I have never heard deal explicitly, specifically, particularly with their sins in this way, certainly not with men, and I therefore fear not with God either, no matter how graciously and honestly and specifically their sins are addressed.

To hear a man who has had a particular issue particularly identified respond with, “Well, if there is any way in which I have offended you . . .” galls the soul. “Yes!” one feels like responding, “the way in which you have offended him/her/me is the very way which has just been pointed out to you – that’s what you need to address!” I remember trying this myself once some time ago, and a good friend pulled me up and pointed out that there was no “if” about it. I had offended someone, and – even though he knew that the offense was not intentional in this instance – it still had to be specifically addressed if there were to be any prospect of resolution and reconciliation.

General confessions are often merely a way of sloping the shoulders, deflecting the point, defending the reputation, and denying the reality of the sin. The honest man, dealing faithfully with his own soul and with his God, makes specific confession:

Confession of sin should be explicit. “The care of Christianity is for particulars,” says Bishop Warburton. The ritual law in Israel which provided for the transference of sin on the Day of Atonement pre-supposed definiteness of confession: “Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins” (Lev. 16:21). In private sacrifices, also, while the hands of the offerer (Lev. 1:4) were laid on the victim, the following prayer was recited: “I entreat, O Jehovah: I have sinned, I have done perversely, I have rebelled, I have committed ______”; then the special sin, or sins, were named, and the worshipper continued, “but I return in penitence: let this be for my atonement.”

Standing beside the ruins of Jericho, Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto Him.” And Achan answered, “Indeed, I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel; and thus and thus have I done” (Josh. 7:19, 20, emphasis added).

The great promise of the New Testament is not less definite: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

A wise old writer says, “A child of God will confess sin in particular; an unsound Christian will confess sin by wholesale; he will acknowledge he is a sinner in general; whereas David doth, as it were, point with his finger to the sore: ‘I have done this evil’ (Psa. 51:4); he doth not say, ‘I have done evil,’ but ‘this evil.’ He points to his blood-guiltiness.” (80)

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 8 August 2011 at 12:00

3 Responses

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  1. Spot on

    Jonathan Hunt

    Monday 8 August 2011 at 14:29

  2. […] Specific confession of specific sins (eardstapa.wordpress.com) […]

    The Causes of Failure | YOU DECIDE

    Monday 8 August 2011 at 17:00

  3. Well written and said. Of course it is easy to agree on something like this but another to humble one self and practice it before your wife and kids especially.

    Rob

    Tuesday 16 August 2011 at 05:13


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