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Confession of Sin Illustrated by the Cases of...

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 03/31/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

            Confession Of Sin Illustrated by the Cases of Dr. Pritchard and Constance Kent by C. H. SPURGEON,                                    

              "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my               transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."Psalm 32:5.

          DAVID'S grief for sin was long and terrible. Its effects were visible upon his outward frame; "his bones           waxed old;" "his moisture was turned into the drought of summer." No remedy could he find, until he           made a full confession before the throne of the heavenly grace. He tells us, that for a time he kept           silence, and then his heart became more and more filled with grief: like some mountain tarn whose outlet           is blocked up, his soul was swollen with torrents of sorrow. He dreaded to confront his sin. He fashioned           excuses; he endeavoured to divert his thoughts, by giving his mind to the cares of his kingdom or the pleasures of           his court, but it was all to no purpose; the rankling arrow made the wound bleed anew, and made the gash more           wide and deep every day. Like a festering sore his anguish gathered and increased, and as he would not use the           lancet of confession, his spirits became more and more full of torment, and there was no rest in his bones because           of sin. At last it came to this, that he must return unto his God in humble penitence, or he must die outright; so he           hastened to the mercy-seat, and there unrolled the volume of his iniquities before the eye of the all-seeing One,           acknowledging all the evil of his ways in language such as you read in the fifty-first and other penitential Psalms.           Having done this, a work so simple and yet so difficult to pride, he received at once the token of divine           forgiveness; the bones which had been broken were made to rejoice, and he came forth from his closet to sing the           blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered.               See, dear friends, the value of a truthful grace-wrought confession of sin; it is to be prized above all price, for           he that confesseth his sin and forsaketh it, shall find mercy. Now, it is a well known fact, that when God is pleased           to bestow upon men any choice gift, Satan, who is the god of counterfeits, is sure very soon to produce a base           imitation, true in appearance, but worthless in reality: his object is deception, and full often he succeeds. How           many there are who have made a worthless confession, and yet are relying upon it as though it were a work of           grace; they have come before God as a matter of form, and have said, "Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable           sinners;" and having so done, imagine that they have received the divine absolution, when alas! alas! it is easy to           be deceived, and difficult to cultivate within one's heart that genuine repentance, which is the work of God the           Holy Ghost.               May God grant us his gracious assistance while we describe two widely different sorts of confession which           have been very vividly brought before us during the past week; and then we will have a few words upon the           exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy which is vested in God, who gives forgiveness to those whose           confession is sincere.               I. Let me set before you TWO SORTS OF CONFESSION.               At this present moment, unhappily, two persons are lying under sentence of death, for murders of the most           atrocious character. Without wishing to say a single word with regard to the state of soul of either of these           personsfor into that it is no business of mine to pryit seems to me that the published reports of their cases,           may very properly furnish us with types of two sorts of persons. It is remarkable that two such cases as those of           Dr. Pritchard and Constance Kent should be before the public eye at the same moment and that the points of           contrast in their confession should be so exceedingly clear. I cannot but hope and pray that we may gather some           few lessons of warning from crimes which have no doubt exercised a great influence for evil upon the masses of           our country.               The confession which has been made by Dr. PRITCHARD, maybe taken as a specimen of those which are           full often made by impenitent sinners, which can never be regarded as acceptable before the throne of the Most           High. Here is a man who is accused of the atrocious crime of murdering his wife and his mother-in-law, and when           he answers to the indictment, we are not astonished to hear him plead, "Not Guilty!" I am far from being severe           upon him for so pleading, but viewing him as a type, I would remind you that thousands of those who call           themselves "miserable sinners" in our public services, if they were called to plead before the bar of God, would           have the effrontery to say "Not Guilty." They might not use the words, very probably they would use terms           having the opposite meaning, but their heart-plea would be, "not guilty." If they had the law of God explained to           them and they were questioned upon each commandment, "Have you broken this? Have you broken that?"           though ready enough to confess in the gross that they have sinned, when it came to details they would be for           denying all. We have heard of a woman who readily allowed that she was a sinner "O yes, sir, we are all sinners.           Just so, sir." But when the visitor sat down and opened the book, and pointing to the commandment, said, "Have           you ever had any other God save the Lord?" She did not know that she ever had. "Had she ever taken God's           name in vain?" "O dear no, sir, I never did anything so wicked." Each precept was explained, and she very           positively claimed that she had not broken it. She had not violated the Sabbath; she had not killed anybody; she           had not committed adultery; she had not borne false witness, or coveted anything; she was altogether, in detail,           innocent, though in the gross she was quite willing to say as other people, "Oh, yes! I am a sinner, of course, sir,           we are all sinners!" which, being interpreted, means, "I am ready to say anything you like to put into my mouth,           but I do not believe a syllable of it." The inward speech of the unconverted man is, "I am not guilty." Ask the           unhumbled transgressor, "Art thou worthy of God's wrath?" and his proud heart replies, "I am not." "Art thou           worthy to be cast away for ever from God's presence on account of sin?" and the unbroken, uncontrite soul           replies. "I am not. I am no thief, nor adulterer, nor extortioner; I have not sinned as yon publican has done. I thank           God that I am not as other men are." Man pleads Not Guilty, and yet all the while within his heart, so proud and           boastful, there may readily be discerned abundant evidence of abounding sin. The leprosy is white upon his           unclean brow, and yet the man claims to be sound and whole. If there were no other evidence against us, the very           pride which boasts of innocence would be sufficient to convict us of sin, and will be so when we are taught right           reason by the Holy Spirit.               The guilty man whose case we are now looking upon as an illustration, endeavoured, as a means of defense           for himself, to involve another in the dreadful guilt and punishment of his atrocious sin. There were very           distinct signs that he would have been perfectly satisfied if the woman who had ministered to his sinful pleasures           had been accused and condemned of the crime of which he alone was guilty. Certainly this is the case with the           great mass of those who are compelled to acknowledge their sins. Our first parent could not deny that he had           taken of the forbidden fruit, but he laid the blame upon Eve: "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she           gave me of the tree and I did eat." Ah Adam! where is thy manliness, where thy love to thy spouse, that thou           wouldest involve in the ruin her who was bone of thy bone so as to escape thyself? And she! she will not take the           blame for a moment, but it is the serpent; she casts all the sin on him. In this first case of sin, the attempt was less           atrocious than in that of the prisoner before us, because there was real guilt both in the woman and in the serpent,           while it does not appear that the servant girl in Pritchard's family had any share in the poisoning. However, the           human heart is such, that if we could really throw all the shame and blame of sin upon another who was perfectly           innocent, there would be a strong temptation to do so if we might by such means be considered innocent. Nay, let           me show that Adam virtually did that, for he said "The woman whom thou gavest me," thus virtually laying the           blame of his rebellious deed upon God himself. And God, what hand had he in Adam's eating of the fruit of the           accursed tree? It was an act of Adam's free will, he did as he pleased concerning it, and the most holy God could           in no sense be made partaker of his transgression. Yet, think of it! He would sooner that the great God, who is           hymned of angels as the thrice Holy One, should bear the fault of his iniquity than he would bear it himself. Such           are we naturally. We may bend the knee and say we are miserable sinners, but unless the grace of God has taught           us to make true confession we are always for shifting the burden to some other shoulder, and making it out that           after all, though nominally miserable sinners, we are not so bad as a great many other people, and have a deal           saddled upon us which really is no fault of ours, but belongs to providence, to fate, to our fellow men, to the devil,           to the weather, and I know not what besides.               The convicted criminal who stands before us in our picture made no confession whatever until the case was           proved and sentence pronounced. The case was clear enough, but he did his best to make it difficult; had he been           completely free from the crime, his bearing and tone could have been scarcely more confident when asserting his           innocence. I admit that it was very natural that he should not aid to convict himself, it is because it is so natural           that the man serves so admirably as a representative of human nature when it makes its impenitent confessions.           When it could not avail the wretch to withhold the truth, when facts were brought out so clear, when the jury had           decided, when the judge had pronounced sentence, then, and not till then, he yielded to tears and entreaties, and           proffered a confession, such as it was. So is it ever with unregenerate humanity; though cognizant of sin, we only           acknowledge before the Lord that which is too glaring to be denied. Sin may be held up before the eyes of the           man who is guilty of it, and often he will disown his own offspring, or assert that it is not what God's Word           declares it to be. Holy Scripture accuses us of a thousand sins which we practically claim to be innocent of, for we           flatter ourselves that the Bible puts too harsh a construction upon our actions, and that we are not what it declares           us to be. When our fellow-men concur in censuring our fault we are compelled to blush, but of what value is a           repentance which owes its existence to the overwhelming testimony of our fellow offenders against us. This           force-work is far removed from the free and ready acknowledgments of a man whose heart is touched by divine           grace and melted by the love of Jesus. When men are upon their dying beds, when the ghosts of their iniquities           haunt them, when the red hand of guilt draws the curtain, when they can almost hear the sentence of the last           judgment, then they will make a confession, but may we not fear that it is of little value, since it is wrung and           extorted from them by fear of hell and horror of the wrath to come. True repentance wrought in us by the Holy           Ghost drops as freely as honey droppeth from the comb, but merely natural confessions are like the worst of the           wine squeezed by main force from the dregs. O dear friends, God deliver you from ungracious confessions of sin,           and enable you sincerely to repent at the foot of Jesus' cross!               When the confession came, in the case before us, it was very partial. He had killed one, but he professed           himself guiltless of the other's death. Villain as he was, on his own shewing, he could go the length of owning half           his crime, but then he started back and acted the liar. No, she died by accident, and he, to avoid being charged           unjustlyinnocent creature as he washad put the poison in the bottle afterwards. He had the wickedness to           feign a wonder that his tale was not believed, and likened those who doubted him to those who would not believe           the Lord of glory. Now, the confessions of unregenerate men are precisely of this sort. They will go the length of           owning, if they have been drinking, or if they have broken the laws of the state, "yes, we have offended here," but           the great mass of sins against God are not confessed, nor allowed to be sins at all. Men will often lay a stress upon           sins of which they are not conspicuously guilty, and omit those which are the most glaring. What unrenewed man           thinks it a sin to forget God, to forsake the Creator's fountain of living waters for the cisterns of the creature, or to           live without God in the world? And yet, these are the most crying of all iniquities. To rob God of his glory, to           despise his Son, to disbelieve the gospel, to live for self, to be self-righteousall these are heinous evils, but what           carnal man owns to them as such? Covetousness! again, who ever confesses that? Thousands are guilty of it, but           few will own it even in private before the Lord. No confession will be acceptable before God, unless you are           willing to make a clean breast of the whole of your evil ways, words and thoughts, before the searcher of hearts. I           do not wonder if you should fail to tell to others your offenses; it were not meet you should do so except wherein           you have offended them and may make retribution by the confession; but before God you must open all, you           must roll away the stone from the mouth of that sepulcher, even though your iniquity, like Lazarus, should stink.           There must be no mincing the matter, things must be called by their right names; you must be willing to feel the           horrible sinfulness of sin, and as far as you can, you must descend to the very bottom of its terrible guiltiness, and           acknowledge its blackness, its heinousness, its devilry, its abomination. No confession will be acceptable before           God, if you knowingly and wilfully gloss over any sin; if you make any exception, or are partial with respect to           any form of iniquity. That confession which hides some sins and only confesses certain others stops one leak in           the soul and opens another.               Nor ought it to be forgotten, that when the criminal had confessed his sin, yet still in the last           confessionwhich we may suppose to have been true, there are words of extenuation, and nothing to indicate           any deep and suitable sensibility of his great enormity. He hints at reasons why he was scarcely accountablea           sort of madness and the influence of strong drink must be execrated for the crime, and not the man himself. O           God, thou knowest how often in our natural confessions, before thy grace met with us, we made wretched and           mean excuses for ourselves! We said that a strong temptation overcame us; it was an unguarded moment; it was           our constitution and our besetting sins; it was our friend who led us astray; it was God's providence which tried us;           it was anything rather than ourselveswe were to blame, no doubt, but still there were extenuating circumstances.           Beloved friends! a man can never make a true confession till he feels that sin is his own sin, and is willing to           confess it as such; he must cease to apologize any longer, and must just stand forth before the Lord, and cry, "I           have sinned, willfully and infamously, and here, standing in thy presence, I acknowledge it: but if a word of           apology could save my soul, I dare not utter it, for I should again be guilty of a lie." May this teach us to seek out           rather the aggravations of our sin than fancied extenuations of it. Try to see the worst of thy case, sinner, more           than to gloss it or gild it over and make it seem better than it is.               All this, remember, was committed by this miserable murderer, who is so soon to appear before his God, not           through ignorance, but in spite of a clear consciousness of the wrong of his deed. Had he been some person of a           low mental organization, or of neglected intellect, there might be some plea. If, for instance, he had never been           able to read, and had received his only education amid thieves and vagabonds, there might have been some           excuse, and we might have said, "It is the sin of the community which fails to provide moral and religions           instruction for the people;" but here is a man who knows better, who, I suppose, had listened to thousands of           sermons, had a knowledge of the Bible, had pretended to pray, was well taught as to the matter of right and           wrong, and yet still, in defiance of all this, he sins, and to make the matter worse, shows no signs of softening of           heart, no tenderness, no melting, nothing of deep regret, and shame, and contrition, and humbleness of heart, but           is, apparently (I say no more) as obdurate in confessing his guilt as when he was denying it. Ah! but there are too           many who make confession, having no broken hearts, no streaming eyes, no flowing tears, no humbled spirits.           Know ye this, that ten thousand confessions, if they are made by hardened hearts, if they do not spring from really           contrite spirits shall be only additions to your guilt as they are mockeries before the Most High. Let these suffice as           remarks upon unacceptable confession. Oh Lord, let thy Holy Spirit give to the guilty one, of whom we have been           speaking, and to us all that broken and contrite heart, which thou wilt accept through Jesus Christ!               The second case must now come before us, and here again I do not desire to speak anything about the state of           heart of CONSTANCE KENT, I only speak of her outward act, and only of that as a symbol of true confession.           Here is one avowedly guilty of a most atrocious murder, a very great and terrible crime; but when she appears in           court she is brought there upon her own confession; her life was in no danger from the witness of other people.           She surrendered herself voluntarily, and when she stood before the judge, she pleaded guilty. No doubt her           anxious friends had suggested to her the desirableness of pleading "Not guilty," hoping to save her life by failure in           the evidence, or plea of insanity, or some other legal method of saving criminals from the gallows. Mark, however,           how distinctly she says "Guilty;" and though the question is repeated and space is given her to retract, her reply is           still the one self-condemning word "GUILTY!" Even so before the Lord, whenever we come to confess we must           approach him with this cry, Guilty, Guilty! "Lord, I cannot say anything else. If hell be my eternal portion for it, I           dare say no other. The stones in the streets would cry out against me if I denied my guilt. When my memory           shows me the record of my days, its truthful witness is that I have broken thy law; and when my conscience looks           at the way in which I have transgressed, it cannot say anything but this, 'Thou hast wilfully broken God's law and           thou deservest his wrath.'" Now sinner, thou shalt never be at peace with God until thou art willing unreservedly to           plead "Guilty." That self-righteous spirit of thine must be cast out as though it were the very devil, for it is next           akin to the devil, and is quite as mischievous, and thou must be brought down humbly to lie at the foot of           Jehovah's throne and confess that thou dost richly deserve his wrath, for thou hast defied his righteous law and           sinned against him with a high hand. You must plead "Guilty," or remain guilty for ever. You shall never find           pardon through Jesus Christ till you are willing, truly and really, to own yourself a sinner.               Constance Kent was anxious to free all others from the blame of her sin. Her counsel says, in open court,           "Solemnly, in the presence of Almighty God, as a person who values her own soul, she wishes me to say that the           guilt is her own alone; and that her father and others, who have so long suffered most unjust and cruel suspicions,           are wholly and absolutely innocent." This is well spoken. I know nothing of this young woman's heart, but using           her as an illustration rather than an example, we are safe in saying that it is a very blessed sign of true repentance           when the sinner cries out with David, "I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against           thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." There will be in a gracious penitent no attempt to           lay the blame upon the tempter, or upon providence; no dwelling upon circumstances, the suddenness of the           temptation, or the hastiness of one's temper. "Oh God," says the sinner, " I have sinned myself; I have nothing in           the world that is so truly my own as my own sin. For this my sin, I alone am accountable, and I feel it, and I           cannot, I dare not impeach any one else with being guilty of my sin. I must stand in my own person before thee, O           God, even if that involves my eternal ruin." It will never do for you to lay the blame on your mothers and fathers           because they did not teach you better, upon the minister for not being earnest enough, or upon your master for           telling you to do wrong. It is true that we may be partakers of your sins in a measure, but if you be sincerely           penitent, the guilt which will strike you will not be another man's guilt, nor another man's share in your sin, but           your own guilt. A sinner has not been brought truly before the Lord in humble contrition, unless his cry is "Lord! I           have sinned, I have sinned so as to be guilty myself, in my own person. Have mercy upon me!"               The unhappy young woman now condemned to die needed no witness to come forward to prove her guilt           and ensure her conviction. No one saw the deed; it was done so secretly that the most expert detectives were not           able to find a satisfactory clue to the mystery. There may be collateral evidence to support her confession; it may,           or it may not be true that her conviction would now have been certain had her confession been retracted; but she           did not need that, for without any voice of man to witness she witnessed against herself. It will never suffice for us           merely to confess to the Lord what other people have seen, and to feel guilty because we know that the case is           reported in the neighborhood. Many people who have fallen into sin, have felt very penitent because they knew           they should damage their names, or lose their situations; but to have your private sin brought before you by           conscience, and voluntarily without any pressure but the burden of sin itself and the work of the Holy Spirit, to           come before God and say, "Lord, thou knowest in this matter I have offended, and though none saw me except           thine eye and mine; yet thine eye might well flash with anger at me, while mine shall be wet with many a tear of           penitence on account of it:" that is what you need, Sinner, thou must come before God now and let out thine heart           without any external pressure. Spontaneously must thy soul flow out, poured out like water before the Lord, or           thou must not hope that he will give thee pardon.               She confessed all. It was a solemn moment when the judge said, "I must repeat to you, that you are charged           with having wilfully, intentionally, and with malice killed and murdered your brother. Are you guilty or not guilty?"           Yes, she was guilty, just as the judge had put it. She did not object to those words which made the case come out           so black. The willfulness?yes, she acknowledged that. The intention, the malice?yes, all that. The killing, the           murderingwas it just murder?was it nothing less? No, nothing else. Not a word of extenuation. She

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