July 17: Turn Back

“I acknowledged my sin unto you, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32:5

This is just what God loves—an open, ingenuous confession of sin. Searching and knowing, though He does, all hearts, He yet delights in the honest and minute acknowledgment of sin from His backsliding child. Language cannot be too humiliating; the detail cannot be too minute. Mark the stress He has laid upon this duty, and the blessing He has annexed to it. Thus He spoke to the children of Israel, that wandering, backsliding, rebellious people—”If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity; then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.”

Truly may we exclaim, “Who is a God like unto You, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage! He retains not His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.” And how did the heart of God melt with pity and compassion when He heard the audible relentings of His Ephraim! “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: You have chastised me and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn me, and I shall be turned; for You are the Lord my God.” And what was the answer of God? “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my affections are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord.” Nor is the promise of pardon annexed to confession of sin unfolded with less clearness and consolatoriness in the New Testament writings. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” How full, then, the blessing, how rich the consolation connected with an honest, heart-broken confession of sin! How easy, and how simple too, this method of return to God! “Only acknowledge your iniquity.”

It is but a confession of sin over the head of Jesus, the great sacrifice for sin. Oh, what is this that God says? “Only acknowledge your iniquity!” Is this all He requires of His poor wandering child? This is all! “Then,” may the poor soul exclaim, “Lord, I come to You. I am a backslider, a wanderer, a prodigal. I have strayed from You like a lost sheep. My love has waxed cold, my steps have slackened in the path of holy obedience, my mind has yielded to the corrupting, deadening influence of the world, and my affections have wandered in quest of other and earthly objects of delight. But, behold, I come unto You. Do You invite me? Do You stretch out Your hand? Do You bid me approach You? Do You say, ‘Only acknowledge your iniquity?’ Then, Lord, I come; in the name of Your dear Son, I come; restore unto me the joy of your salvation.'”

Thus confessing sin over the head of Jesus, until the heart has nothing more to confess but the sin of its confession—for, beloved reader, our very confession of sin needs to be confessed over, our very tears need to be wept over, and our very prayers need to be prayed over, so defaced with sin is all that we do—the soul, thus emptied and unburdened, is prepared to receive anew the seal of a Father’s forgiving love.

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October 15: Confession Of Sin

“He looks upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.” Job 33:27, 28

Let the child of God be encouraged to take all his sins to his heavenly Father. Have you sinned? Have you taken a single step in departure from God? Is there the slightest consciousness of guilt? Go at once to the throne of grace; stay not until you find some secret place for confession—stay not until you are alone; lift up your heart at once to God, and confess your sin with the hand of faith upon the great, atoning Sacrifice. Open all your heart to Him. Do not be afraid of a full and honest confession. Shrink not from unfolding its most secret recesses—lay all bare before His eyes.

Do you think He will turn from the exposure? Do you think He will close His ear against your breathings? Oh no! Listen to His own encouraging, persuasive declarations—”Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, Return, you backsliding Israel, says the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, says the Lord; and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity that you have transgressed against the Lord your God.” “I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him.”

Oh, what words are these! Does the eye of the poor backslider fall on this page? And as he now reads of God’s readiness to pardon—of God’s willingness to receive back the repenting prodigal—of His yearning after His wandering child—feels his heart melted, his soul subdued, and, struck with that amazing declaration, “Only acknowledge your iniquity,” would dare creep down at His feet, and weep, and mourn, and confess. Oh! is there one such now reading this page? then return, my brother, return! God—the God against whom you have sinned—says, “Return.” Your Father—the Father from whom you have wandered—is looking out for the first return of your soul, for the first kindlings of godly sorrow, for the first confession of sin.

God has not turned His back upon you, though you have turned your back upon Him. God has not forgotten to be gracious, though you have forgotten to be faithful. “I remember you”—is His own touching language—”the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals.” Oh! then, come back; this moment, come back; the fountain is still open—Jesus is still the same—the blessed and eternal Spirit, loving and faithful as ever—God ready for pardon: take up, then, the language of the prodigal and say, “I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Your sight, and am no more worthy to be called Your son.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The blessings that result from a strict observance of daily confession of sin are rich and varied. We would from the many specify two. The conscience retains its tender susceptibility of guilt. Just as a breath will tarnish a mirror highly polished, so will the slightest aberration of the heart from God—the smallest sin—leave its impression upon a conscience in the habit of a daily unburdening itself in confession, and of a daily washing in the fountain. Going thus to God, and acknowledging iniquity over the head of Immanuel—pleading the atoning blood—the conscience retains its tenderness, and sin, all sin, is viewed as that which God hates, and the soul abhors.

This habit, too, keeps, so to speak, a clear account between God and the believer. Sins daily and hourly committed are not forgotten; they fade not from the mind, and therefore they need not the correcting rod to recall them to remembrance. For let us not forget, God will eventually bring our sins to remembrance; “He will call to remembrance the iniquity.” David had forgotten his sin against God, and his treacherous conduct to Uriah, until God sent the prophet Nathan to bring his iniquity to remembrance. A daily confession, then, of sin, a daily washing in the fountain, will preserve the believer from many and, perhaps, deep afflictions. This was David’s testimony—”I acknowledged my sin unto You, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgression unto the Lord, and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

July 23: My Soul Cleaves Unto The Dust

“I lie in the dust, completely discouraged; revive me by your word.” Psalm 119:25

Ah! how many whose eye scans this page may take up and breathe David’s words. You feel a deadness, a dullness, and an earthliness in spiritual enjoyments, and duties, and privileges, in which your whole soul should be all life, all fervor, all love. You are low where you ought to be elevated; you grovel where you ought to soar; you cleave to the earth where you ought to be embracing the heavens. Your thoughts are low; your affections are low; your feelings are low; your spirits are low; and you seem almost ready to question the existence of the life of God in your soul.

But even in this sad and depressed state may there not be something cheering, encouraging, hopeful? There was evidently in David’s–”My soul cleaves unto the dust: quicken me.” This was the cheering, encouraging, hopeful feature in the Psalmists’s case–his breathing after the requickening of the Divine life of his soul. Here was that which marked him a man of God. It was a living man complaining of his deadness, and breathing after more life. It was a heaven-born soul lamenting its earthliness, and panting after more of heaven. It was a spiritual man mourning over his carnality, and praying for more spirituality. It is not the prayer of one conscious of the low state of His soul, and yet satisfied with that state.

“I lie in the dust, completely discouraged; revive me by your word.” Perhaps no expression is more familiar to the ear, and no acknowledgment is more frequently on the lips of religious professors, than this. And yet where is the accompanying effort to rise above it? Where is the putting on of the armor? Where is the conflict? Where is the effort to emerge from the dust, to break away from the enthrallment, and soar into a higher and purer region? Alas! many from whose lips smoothly glides the humiliating confession still embrace the dust, and seem to love the dust, and never stretch their pinions to rise above it.

But let us study closely this lesson of David’s experience, that while deep lamentation filled his heart, and an honest confession breathed from his lips, there was also a breathing, a panting of soul, after a higher and a better state. He seemed to say–”Lord, I am prostrate, but I long to rise; I am fettered, but I struggle to be free; my soul cleaves to the dust, but quicken me!” Similar to this was the state of the Church, so graphically depicted by Solomon in his Song–”I sleep, but my heart wakes.”

April 15: The Rod Not Spared

“My son, despise not you the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:5-6

The rod of your heavenly Father is upon you. In the experience of your sensitive spirit, your feeling heart, the stroke is a heavy, and a sore one. To a keen sense of its severity, is perhaps added the yet keener conviction of the sin that has evoked it- that, but for your wanderings from God, your rebellion against His will, your disobedience of His commands, there would not have come upon you a correction so painful and humiliating.

But where in your sorrow will you repair? To the solace and sympathy of whose heart will you betake yourself? Will you flee from that Father? Will you evade His eye, and shun His presence? Eternal love forbids it!

What then? You will hasten and throw yourself in His arms, and fall upon His bosom, confessing your sins, and imploring His forgiveness. Thus taking hold of His strength, with that displeased and chastening Father you are in a moment at peace. Blessed is the man, O Lord, whom You chasten, and draw closer within the sacred pavilion of Your loving, sheltering bosom.

Oh, what an unveiling of the heart of God may be seen in a loving correction! No truth in experimental religion is more verified than this, that the severest discipline of our heavenly Father springs from His deepest, holiest love. That in His rebukes, however severe, in His corrections, however bitter, there is more love, more tenderness, and more real desire for our well-being, than exists in the fondest affection a human heart ever cherished.

And oftentimes, in His providential dealings with His children, there is more of the heart of God unfolded in a dark, overhanging cloud than is ever unveiled and revealed in a bright and glowing sunbeam. But this truth is only learned in God’s school.

April 7: His Ever Watchful Eye

“I the Lord search the heart.” Jeremiah 17:10.

Solemn as is this view of the Divine character, the believing mind finds in it sweet and hallowed repose. What more consolatory truth in some of the most trying positions of a child of God than this- the Lord knows the heart. The world condemns, and the saints judge, but God knows the heart. And to those who have been led into deep discoveries of the heart’s hidden evil, to whom have been made startling and distressing unveilings, how precious is this character of God- “He that searches the heart!”

Is there a single recess of our hearts we would veil from His penetrating glance? Is there a corruption we would hide from His view? Is there an evil of which we would have Him ignorant? Oh no! Mournful and humiliating as is the spectacle, we would throw open every door, and uplift every window, and invite and urge His scrutiny and inspection, making no concealments, and indulging in no reserves, and framing no excuses when dealing with the great Searcher of hearts, exclaiming, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

And while the Lord is thus acquainted with the evil of our hearts, He most graciously conceals that evil from the eyes of others. He seems to say, by His benevolent conduct, “I see my child’s infirmity,”- then, covering it with His hand, exclaims- “but no other eye shall see it, but my own!” Oh, the touching tenderness, the loving-kindness of our God! Knowing, as He does, all the evil of our nature, He yet veils that evil from human eye, that others may not despise us as we often despise ourselves. Who but God could know it? who but God would conceal it?

And how blessed, too, to remember that while God knows all the evil, He is as intimately acquainted with all the good that is in the hearts of His people! He knows all that His Spirit has implanted, that His grace has wrought. Oh encouraging truth! That spark of love, faint and flickering- that pulsation of life, low and tremulous- that touch of faith, feeble and hesitating- that groan, that sigh, that low thought of self that leads a man to seek the shade- that self-abasement that places his mouth in the dust, oh, not one of these sacred emotions is unseen, unnoticed by God.

His eye ever rests with infinite complaisance and delight on His own image in the renewed soul. Listen to His language to David: “Forasmuch as it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well, in that it was in your heart.”

There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood

It is sweet to think how soon, how very soon, we shall be fitted for the companionship of Jesus Himself, beholding Him in all His unveiled beauties. Does not the thought often gladden our heart, and fill your eyes with tears of joy, and holy contrition for sin? I cannot conceive of holy joy unaccompanied with godly sorrow. Confession of sin should make up one half of our lives. Only acknowledge your iniquity.

And when we remember that we have to do with One so willing and so able to pardon, it becomes then a mingled feeling of pleasure and pain. By confessing sin we gather strength to resist it; thereby the enemy of our souls is foiled, the conscience is kept tender, the heart is sanctified, and the blood of Jesus becomes increasingly precious. Let us constantly flee to the cleansing fountain!


 

April 2: What A Friend We Have In Jesus

“There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 28:24.

The power of human sympathy is amazing, if it leads the heart to Christ. It is paralyzed, if it leads only to ourselves. Oh, how feeble and inadequate are we to administer to a diseased mind, to heal a  broken heart, to strengthen the feeble hand, and to confirm the trembling knees! Our mute sympathy, our prayerful silence, is often the best exponent of our affection, and the most effectual expression of our aid.

But if, taking the object of our solicitude by the hand, we gently lead him to God- if we conduct him to Jesus, portraying to his view the depth of His love, the perfection of His atoning work, the sufficiency of His grace, His readiness to pardon, and His power to save, the exquisite sensibility of His nature, and thus His perfect sympathy with every human sorrow; we have then most truly and most effectually soothed the sorrow, stanched the wound, and strengthened the hand in God.
There is no sympathy- even as there is no love, no gentleness, no tenderness, no patience- like Christ’s.

Oh how sweet, how encouraging, to know, that in all my afflictions He is afflicted; that in all my temptations He is tempted; that in all my assaults He is assailed; that in all my joys He rejoices- that He weeps when I weep, sighs when I sigh, suffers when I suffer, rejoices when I rejoice. May this truth endear Him to our souls! May it constrain us to unveil our whole heart to Him, in the fullest confidence of the closest, most sacred, and precious friendship. May it urge us to do those things always which are most pleasing in His sight.

Beloved, never forget- and let these words linger upon your ear, as the echoes of music that never die- in all your sorrows, in all your trials, in all your needs, in all your assaults, in all your conscious wanderings, in life, in death, and at the day of judgment- you possess a friend that sticks closer than a brother! That friend is- Jesus!

 

January 9

“And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord.”  Luke 22:61.

His Lord’s solemn prediction of his sin he seemed quite to have forgotten. But when that look met his eye, it summoned back to memory the faded recollections of the faithful and tender admonitions that had forewarned him of his fall. There is a tendency, in our fallen minds to forget our sinful departures from God. David’s threefold backsliding seemed to have been lost in deep oblivion, until the Lord sent His prophet to recall it to his memory. Christ will bring our forgotten departures to view, not to upbraid or to condemn, but to humble us, and to bring us afresh to the blood of sprinkling. The heart searching look from Christ turns over each leaf in the book of memory; and sins and follies, inconsistencies and departures, there inscribed, but long forgotten, are read and re-read, to the deep sin-loathing and self-abasement of our souls. Ah! let a look of forgiving love penetrate your soul, illuminating memory’s dark cell, and how many things, and circumstances, and steps in your past life will you recollect to your deepest humiliation before God. And oh! how much do we need thus to be reminded of our admonitions, our warnings, and our falls, that we may in all our future spirit and conduct “walk humbly with God.”

 

November 3

“Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.” John 17:17

“HOW may I know,” is the anxious inquiry of many, “that sin is being mortified in me?” We reply—by a weakening of its power. When Christ subdues our iniquities, He does not eradicate them, but weakens the strength of their root. The principle of sin remains, but it is impaired. See it in the case of Peter. Before he fell, his easily besetting sin was self-confidence: “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” Behold him after his recovery, taking the low place at the feet of Jesus, and at the feet of the disciples too, meekly saying, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” No more self-vaunting, no more self-confidence: his sin was mortified through the Spirit, and he became as another man. Thus often the very outbreak of our sins may become the occasion of their deeper discovery and their more thorough subjection. Nor let us overlook the power of the truth, by the instrumentality of which the Spirit mortifies sin in us: “Sanctify them through Your truth.” The truth as it is in Jesus, revealed more clearly to the mind, and impressed more deeply on the heart, transforms the soul into its own divine and holy nature. Our spiritual and experimental acquaintance, therefore, with the truth—with Him who is essential truth—will be the measure of the Spirit’s mortification of sin in our hearts. Is the Lord Jesus becoming increasingly precious to your soul? Are you growing in poverty of spirit, in a deeper sense of your vileness, weakness, and unworthiness? Is pride more abased, and self more crucified, and God’s glory more simply sought? Does the heart more quickly shrink from sin, and is the conscience more sensitive to the touch of guilt, and do confession and cleansing become a more frequent habit? Are you growing in more love to all the saints—to those, who, though they adopt not your entire creed, yet love and serve your Lord and Master? If so, then you may be assured the Spirit is mortifying sin in you. But oh, look from everything to Christ. Look not within for sanctification; look up for it from Christ. He is as much our “sanctification” as He is our “righteousness.” Your evidences, your comfort, your hope, do not spring from your fruitfulness, your mortification, or anything within you; but solely and entirely from the Lord Jesus Christ. “Looking unto Jesus” by faith, is like removing the covering and opening the windows of a conservatory, to admit more freely the sun, beneath whose light and warmth the flowers and fruits expand and mature. Withdraw the veil that conceals the Sun of Righteousness, and let Him shine in upon your soul, and the mortification of all sin will follow, and the fruits of all holiness will abound.

October 28

“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” John 21:17

DEAR reader, this is His own solemn declaration of Himself—”I, the Lord, search the heart.” Can you open all your heart to Him? Can you admit Him within its most secret places? are you willing to have no concealments? Are you willing that He should search and prove it? Oh, be honest with God!—keep nothing back—tell Him all that you detect within you. He loves the full, honest disclosure: He delights in this confiding surrender of the whole heart. Are you honest in your desires that He might sanctify your heart, and subdue all its iniquity?—then confess all to Him—tell Him all. You would not conceal from your physician a single symptom of your disease—you would not hide any part of the wound; but you would, if anxious for a complete cure, disclose to him all. Be you as honest with the Great Physician—the Physician of your soul. It is true, He knows your case; it is true, He anticipates every want; yet He will have, and delights in having, His child approach Him with a full and honest disclosure. Let David’s example encourage you: “I acknowledged my sin unto You, and mine iniquity have I not hid; I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” And while the heart is thus pouring itself out in a full and minute confession, let the eye of faith be fixed on Christ. It is only in this posture that the soul shall be kept from despondency.

Faith must rest itself upon the atoning blood. And oh, in this posture, fully and freely, beloved reader, may you pour out your heart to God! Disclosures you dare not make to your tenderest friend, you may make to Him: sins you would not confess, corruption your would not acknowledge as existing within you, you are privileged thus, “looking unto Jesus,” to pour into the ear of your Father and God. And oh, how the heart will become unburdened, and the conscience purified, and peace and joy flow into the soul, by this opening of the heart to God!

Try it, dear reader: let no consciousness of guilt keep you back; let no unbelieving suggestion of Satan, that such confessions are inappropriate for the ear of God, restrain you. Come at once—come now—to your Father’s feet, and bringing in your hands the precious blood of Christ make a full and free disclosure. Thus from the attribute of Christ’s omniscience may a humble believer extract much consolation at all times permitted to appeal to it, and say with Peter, “Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You.”