Confession of Sin

1 John 1:9
It is most needful, in handling any truth of God, to cultivate the habit of calmly weighing all our conclusions in the balance of holy Scripture. In this way we are preserved from the evil of hastily seizing one side of a question and using it in such a way as to mar the integrity of divine truth, and damage the souls of men.
We have lately received several communications from our readers which seem to betray a want of clearness on the important subject of the believer's confession of sin, and as it is not possible to discuss such a question in a few hasty lines to correspondents, we think it better to devote a page or two, in the body of the magazine, so as to place the matter in a permanent form before our readers.
Some of our friends seem to confound two distinct things, namely, atonement and forgiveness. It is quite true that all our sins were atoned for on the cross, and hence the very moment we believe, through grace, on the Son of God, we pass out of a condition of guilt and condemnation, into a condition of perfect forgiveness and acceptance. The believer is united to Christ. He is complete, as to his standing before God, so that the word is, "As he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:1717Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17).) " We are complete in him." (Col. 2) " Accepted in the beloved." (Eph. 1) Nor can we ever lose this perfect standing. It is impossible that a single member of Christ's body can ever, for one moment, be out of that condition of perfect favor in which he has been set, by God's free grace, in union with a crucified, risen, and glorified Head.
He may lose the sense of it, the comfort of it, the power of it; but the thing itself he cannot lose. It is his unalterable standing in Christ. Clouds may overcast the sun and hide from our view his genial beams; but the sun shines all the while, with undiminished luster. The believer is accepted, once and forever, in Christ. He is united to Him by a link that can never be severed.
All this is divinely true, and is clearly laid down in the word in passages too numerous to quote here. But, be it remembered, it is not until we believe that we enter into this blessed position. The foundation of it all was laid in the death and resurrection of Christ, but it is only when we, by the power of the Holy Ghost, receive into our hearts the precious truth of the gospel that we enter into the enjoyment of it. " In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." Eph. 1
And we have further to bear in mind that though complete in Christ, as to our standing and title, so that, at any moment, we are ready to pass into the divine presence, and though possessed of the divine nature which cannot sin, because it is born of God, yet we have sin in us. We carry about with us a sinful nature, and are liable, if not watchful, to commit sin in thought, word, and deed. " If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." 1 John 1:8; 2:28If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
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(* The reader should note that the italics in chapter ii. 2 quite destroy the sense of the passage.)
Here, then, we have the doctrine of confession laid down. " If we," believers, " confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Mark, he says " faithful and just," not merely gracious and merciful. That He is, blessed be His name; but He is more, He is faithful and just. On what ground? On the ground of atonement. It is wonderful to think that God can be so presented to us in connection with the forgiveness and cleansing of one who has committed sin. But there must be confession. The conscience must be kept clear. It will not do for a believer to commit sin, and say, " Oh! my sins are all forgiven, and I need not trouble myself about this matter.éé This will never do. A single sinful thought is sufficient to interrupt the believer's communion. It cannot touch his life or interfere with his security in Christ; but it can interfere with his communion, and mar his comfort. He cannot possibly have fellowship with God while there is the smallest unconfessed sin on his conscience. What is he to do? Let him pour out his heart in confession, let him make a clean breast of it. And what follows? Full forgiveness, and cleansing, according to the faithfulness and justice of God.
Some, however, may feel disposed to ask, " Do we not commit many sins which never come within the range of our conscience, and how are we to confess them?'' The answer is very simple, such sins are not in question. We may, no doubt, confess in a general way, our manifold sins, failures, and short-comings, and feel assured of full forgiveness; but our communion is only interrupted by those things which get on the conscience. " If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." When we are walking in the light, sin is not in question, but we are maintained before God according to the divine efficacy of the blood of Jesus. But if we get out of the light, in the actual practical condition of the soul, and commit sin, bow do we get back? By confession, through the advocacy of Christ. If we walk in the light, we have the blood. If we sin, we have an advocate. The usual way with men is just to reverse this order.
This subject has been fully gone into before, in the pages of "Things New and Old;" but we feel it needful to insert this brief article, in order that our readers may have the simple testimony of the word on the point. May the Lord give us a right understanding in all things, and increase in us the spirit of complete subjection to the authority of holy scripture!