Sibbes on Confession of Sin

Sibbes on Confession of Sin

Tomorrow we’ll be considering Daniel’s confession of sin in Daniel 9:1-19. I want to be clear at the outset, confession of sin can’t save us. That said, one aspect of how God saves His people is by pricking their conscience and making them feel the weight of and conviction for their sin. Our work of confession doesn’t save us or anyone else, but God’s reconciling His people to Himself through Jesus Christ bears the fruit of confession. Salvation and forgiveness of sin is a gift of God given by repentance and faith alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone. So it is, under the preeminence of Jesus Christ, that we confess our sin. By God’s design He uses the confession of sin in the lives of His people to accomplish His purposes. The following excerpt from Richard Sibbes’ is helpful as we consider some of the ends He has designed in the confession of His people. Brothers and sisters, give yourself to confessing your sin to God through Christ:

We may observe the ingenuity (‘ingenuousness’, ‘free from restraint’, ‘candid’, or ‘sincere’) of the church in laying open her own state. It is the disposition of God’s people to be ingenuous in opening their state to God, as in David, Nehemiah, Ezra, &c.

The reason is thus: –
(1.) By a free and full confession we give God the honour of his wisdom in knowing of our own condition, secret and open. We give him the honour of mercy that will not take advantage against us, the honour of power and authority over us, if he should shew his strength against us. We yield unto him the glory of all his chief prerogatives; whereupon Joshua moveth Achan to a free confession, ‘My son, give glory to God,’ Joshua 7:19.

(2.) We shame Satan, who first takes away shame of sinning, and then takes away shame for sin. He tempts us not to be ashamed to do that we are ashamed to confess, so we, by silence, keep Satan’s counsel against our own souls. If we accuse ourselves, we put him out of office who is the ‘accuser of the brethren,’ Revelation 12:10.

(3.) We prevent, likewise, malicious imputations from the world. Austin answered roundly and well when he was upbraided with the sins of his former age: ‘What thou,’ saith he, ‘findest fault with, I have condemned in myself before.’ (Quae tu reprehendis, ego damnavi)

(4.) This ingenuous (‘candid’ or ‘sincere’) dealing easeth the soul, giving vent to the grief of it. Whiles the arrow’s head sticks in the wound, it will nto heal. Sin unconfessed is like a broken piece of rusty iron in the body, ferrum in vulnere. It must be gotten out, else it will, by rankling and festering, cause more danger. It is like poison in the stomach, if it be not presently cast up it will infect the whole body. Is it not better to take shame to ourselves now, than to be shamed hereafter before angels, devils, and men? How careful is God of us, by this private way to prevent future shame!

(5.) This faithful dealing with ourselves is oft a means of present delivery out of any trouble. David, in Psalm 32:4, was in a great distemper both of body and spirit; his moisture was turned into the drought of summer. It was thought he made this psalm between the time of his sin and his pardon. What course taketh he? ‘I said,’ said he, that is, ‘I resolved to confess my sin, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin,’ verse 5. Upon a free and full, a faithful and ingenuous confession, without all guile of spirit, he found ease presently, both in soul and body. The cause of God’s severe dealing with us is, that we should deal severely with ourselves. The best trial of religion in us is by those actions whereby we reflect on ourselves by judging and condemning ourselves, for this argueth a spirit without guile. Sin and shifting (‘evasions’, ‘expedients’) came into the world together. The sutilty of proud nature, especially in eminency, is such that sins may pass for virtues, because sin and Satan are alike in this, they cannot endure to appear in their own colour and habit, and so those that oppose it shall be accounted opposers of good. This guile of spirit hath no blessedness belonging to it. Take heed of it.

Sibbes, Richard Works of Richard Sibbes Volume Two Ed. Alexander B. Grosart (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), 38-9.
Note: Edited lightly for ease in reading.