[This article appeared in The Signs of the Times, December 12, 1892.]
But in repenting of sin we need not go into a cell, as did Luther, imposing penances upon ourselves to expiate our iniquity, thinking by so doing to gain the favor of God. The question is asked: “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:7, 8). The psalmist says, “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). The only reason that we have not remission of sin is that we have not acknowledged to Him whom we have wounded by our transgressions, whom we have pierced by our sins, that we are at fault, and in need of mercy. The confession that is the outpouring of the inmost soul will find its way to the heart of infinite pity; for the Lord is nigh unto him that is of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
How mistaken are those who imagine that confession of sin will detract from their dignity, and lessen their influence among their fellow men. Clinging to this erroneous idea, though seeing their faults, many fail to confess them, but rather pass by the wrongs they have done others, so embittering their own lives, and shadowing the lives of others. It will not hurt your dignity to confess your sins. Away with this false dignity. Fall on the Rock and be broken, and Christ will give you the true and heavenly dignity. Let not pride, self-esteem, or self-righteousness keep anyone from confessing his sin, that he may claim the promise. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Keep nothing back from God, and neglect not the confession of your faults to your brethren. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). Many a sin is left unconfessed to confront the sinner in the day of final account; better far to confront your sins now, to confess them and put them away, while the atoning Sacrifice pleads in your behalf. Do not fail to learn the will of God on this subject. The health of your soul and the salvation of others depends upon the course you pursue in this matter. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him: for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6, 7). The humble and broken heart can appreciate something of the love of God and the cross of Calvary. Ample will be the blessing experienced by him who meets the condition by which he may become a partaker of the favor of God.
Call for Surrender
We are to surrender our hearts to God, that He may renew and sanctify us, and fit us for His heavenly court. We are not to wait for some special time, but today we are to give ourselves to Him, refusing to be the servants of sin. Do you imagine you can leave off sin a little at a time? Oh, leave the accursed thing at once! Hate the things that Christ hates, love the things that Christ loves. Has He not by His death and suffering made provision for your cleansing from sin? When we begin to realize that we are sinners, and fall on the Rock to be broken, the everlasting arms are placed about us, and we are brought close to the heart of Jesus. Then we shall be charmed with His loveliness, and disgusted with our own righteousness. We need to come close to the foot of the cross. The more we humble ourselves there, the more exalted will God’s love appear. The grace and righteousness of Christ will not avail for him who feels whole, for him who thinks he is reasonably good, who is contented with his own condition. There is no room for Christ in the heart of him who does not realize his need of divine light and aid.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). There is fullness of grace in God, and we may have His spirit and power in large measure. Do not feed on the husks of self-righteousness, but go to the Lord. He has the best robe to put upon you, and His arms are open to receive. Christ will say, “Take away the filthy garments from him, and clothe him with a change of raiment.”
Come as a Repentant Sinner
But shall we wait till we feel that we are cleansed?—No; Christ has promised that “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). You are proved of God through the Word of God. You are not to wait for wonderful emotions before you believe that God has heard you, feeling is not to be your criterion, for emotions are as changeable as the clouds. You must have something solid for the foundation of your faith. The word of the Lord is a word of infinite power, upon which you may rely, and He has said, “Ask, and ye shall receive.”Matthew 21:22; John 16:24. Look to Calvary. Has not Jesus said that He is your advocate? Has He not said that if you ask anything in His name you shall receive? You are not to depend on your own goodness or good works. You are to come depending upon the Sun of Righteousness, believing that Christ has taken away your sins and imputed to you His righteousness.
You are to come to God as a repenting sinner, through the name of Jesus, the divine Advocate, to a merciful, forgiving Father, believing that He will do just as He has promised. Let those who desire the blessing of God knock, and wait at the throne of mercy, with firm assurance, saying, “For thou, O Lord, hast said, ‘For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.’(Matthew 7:8)” The Lord longs to have those who seek after God believe in Him who is able to do all things.
The Lord has sought to show us how ready is God to hear and answer our request by the use of a most familiar and commonplace occurrence. He said: “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11). Christ made an appeal to us concerning the willingness of God to help, arguing from the natural love of the parent to his offspring. What father could turn from his son who asks bread? Should anyone dishonor God by imagining that He will not respond to the call of His children? Would we think a parent capable of trifling with his child, and tantalizing him by raising his expectation only to disappoint him? Will a father promise to give good and nourishing food to his child and then give him a stone? If ye then, being human and evil, give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him? The Lord assures those that ask Him that He will give them the Holy Spirit.
With the confession of the repenting, believing sinner, Christ mingles His own righteousness, that the prayer of fallen man may go up as fragrant incense before the Father, and the grace of God be imparted to the believing soul. Jesus says to the trembling, repenting soul: “Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me” (Isaiah 27:5). “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Will you let Him reason with you? Will you commit to Him the keeping of your soul as unto a faithful Creator? Come then, and let us live in the light of His countenance, and pray, as did David, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). By faith apply the blood of Christ to your heart, for that alone can make you whiter than snow. But you say, “This surrender of all my idols will break my heart.” This giving up of all for God is represented by your falling upon the Rock and being broken. Then give up all for Him; for unless you are broken, you are worthless.
When you turn away from the “broken cisterns that can hold no water”(Jeremiah 2:13), and in the name of Jesus your Advocate come directly to God, asking for the things you need, the righteousness of Christ will be revealed as your righteousness, the virtue of Christ as your virtue. You will then understand that justification will come alone through faith in Christ; for in Jesus is revealed the perfection of the character of God; in His life is manifested the outworking of the principles of holiness. Through the atoning blood of Christ the sinner is set free from bondage and condemnation; through the perfection of the sinless Substitute and Surety, he may run in the race of humble obedience to all God’s commandments. Without Christ he is under the condemnation of the law, always a sinner, but through faith in Christ he is made just before God.