I must confess that although I am a preacher of the Word, I am also ashamed to confess. However, I can tell you some of my past experiences. I studied once in a church parochial school. On every examination, I usually scored a grade between ninety and one hundred. My average grade in the school was about ninety-nine. But I could never do well in the class that taught the Bible. I was not interested in the subject. My grade-point average was always pulled down by this subject. In the third year, I still did not like this subject. (At that time I was not yet a believer.) The teacher would always tell everyone that a certain student did well in every subject except this one, and that it would be nice if the student did well in that particular subject as well. Therefore, I determined to study and prepare for the Bible course. That year we were on the book of Acts. I spent a few months studying it, and by the time the examination came, I decided to do well. I wrote down the crucial points of the book on my arms and covered them with my long-sleeved shirt. I gave the right answer on many questions, but still my score was only a little over seventy. (Prior to that I had received grades of only forty to fifty.) Later, I was saved, and I had no peace about this matter. I dared not confess it, for if I did, the principal and the teachers would think that I did the same thing with the other subjects. I was afraid that the school would expel me because the school rules stated that anyone caught cheating would be expelled. Moreover, I had already voiced my disagreement with the Anglican Church concerning certain truths, and the principal was not very happy with me. I was afraid that if I was expelled, I would be too ashamed to face my parents. I struggled for many days. In the end, I realized that I would have no peace if I did not confess. The conscience can go to sleep, but it will never die. As a result, I wrote a letter to the principal and made the confession. Later, the principal called me and told me that he forgave my offense on behalf of the school.
Brothers and sisters, our conscience often can go to sleep. But after it wakes up, it will continue to remind us. Every unconfessed sin is an unremoved scar. Your conscience can be suppressed, but it will not shut up and be silent forever. Only those who confess their sins will obtain mercy, and only those who confess their sins will be at peace. The taste of sin is the taste of hell. We are often like David, who said, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away/Through my groaning all day long./For day and night Your hand/Was heavy upon me;/My life sap was dried up/As in the drought of summer" (Psa. 32:3-4). However, after he confessed his sins, he said, "You surround me with the ringing shouts of deliverance" (v. 7).
Previously, we have mentioned that if one does not make confessions, he will not have the proper feeling for sin. Now we must also say that if one does not make confessions, he will not have the proper feeling of joy. Some have wondered why some feel joyful after they are saved, but others do not have joy. Some do not have joy because they have not testified. Others do not have joy because they have not obeyed God in certain areas, or because they are not willing to give up some matters. Still others do not have joy because they are unwilling to confess their sins. The joy of confession is a great joy.
Once I was conducting a conference in Changchow, and the principal of a school wanted to bring some elementary school students to my meetings. I was somewhat reluctant to agree because I was afraid that they would disturb the meeting and distract others. But the principal was an experienced man. He said that there is power in the gospel, and that perhaps a few among them would be saved. Eventually they were allowed to come. Afterward, one teacher from that school came and told me that something had happened in their school. I asked what it was, and he said that a wave of confession had swept through the school. He told me that one child was only seven or eight years old. He and a few other children had once picked loquats from the loquat tree next to the principal’s office without permission. Now he realized that this was a sin. But he was afraid of the principal and dared not confess his sin. When he refused to confess, he did not have the peace. He cried for two days, and in the end he confessed to the principal.
Confession is necessary. If a sin is not confessed, it will follow you all your life. Moses said that "your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23). Sin does not sit still; it does not remain at a distance from us. Sin will follow us and find us out. The teacher I mentioned earlier told me similar stories. One child was eleven or twelve years old. Three or four years earlier, he had seen some of his friends buying candy at the entrance of the school. He did not have any money himself, but it occurred to him that a few pennies were lying on the desk of his teacher’s bedroom. He went to see whether or not the teacher was there so he could take the money to buy some candy. He went and looked, and sure enough, the teacher was not there. He took six pennies and bought himself some candy. Now he felt sorry for his sin. He wanted to repay what he took, but he did not have the money. So he went to his sister and asked for six pennies. His sister asked for the reason, but he would not tell her, pleading only that he needed it, and that he could not get by without it. His sister eventually gave him the money, but followed him to find out what he was doing. He took the money to the teacher and said, "Three or four years ago, I took six pennies from your room to buy candies. Now I would like to return this money to you." When I heard this story, I mentioned it in my message the very next day. After the meeting, a few in the audience who were judges came to me and said, "If things go according to what you have said, there will be no need for judges anymore. If man returns what he has stolen, there will be no need for courts anymore. Although we have not seen much merit in Christianity, the few things that you mentioned are enough to show us the distinction of Christianity."
Confession brings not only peace, but joy as well. Not only does it bring joy, but it wins back the ones whom one has offended. Sometimes our hard-hearted friends will acknowledge with tears that Jesus is their Savior when we confess with tears our sins and acknowledge that Jesus is our Savior. I have experienced this myself. If it were not for Christ’s sake, and if there were no Christ, no one on earth would do such a thing.
Brothers and sisters, if there is some sin in you, you should confess it immediately. This is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes I struggled for a few weeks and even for a few months. At times I struggled for half a year. You may be better than I am, but I have to tell you that the year after I was saved, I confessed at least a hundred times to people. Have you offended anyone in anything?
Other than giving us peace and joy and winning people back to ourselves, confession can do another thing: it can be a testimony. Without confession, there is no testimony. If I do not confess my sins, my audience will wonder if a person such as I can give a message. We must confess our own sins, and we must condemn ourselves for our sins more than we condemn others. Only then will we have a good testimony. We must acknowledge that our sins are sins and that they are wrong before we can persuade others not to sin. We have to confess our own sins before we can testify to others. If we do not confess our sins now, we will not be able to touch others, and we will not have a proper testimony.
Confession is one thing, and recompense is another thing. Is there anything that has ended up in your house? Is there anything that you have stolen? Is there anything that is not yours, but has become yours? Is there anything that you have secured by improper means? Is there anything that you have picked up from the street, or any debt that you have not repaid? Are you willing to clear up these things at the first available opportunity? If you are not willing to do this, God will not bless you. Many Christians are too negligent about these matters. According to Leviticus, not only should we pay back what we owe, but we should also add one-fifth to it (6:1-5). This means that we should not only repay, but we should also repay a little more. We must never allow others to suffer loss. As Christians, we should only allow ourselves to suffer loss from others. If we cannot make the recompense now, we still have to find a chance to do it later.
If the person who has suffered the loss is no longer present, you can hand the recompense over to his relatives. The ordinance in the Old Testament says that if a person’s relatives are not there, one can give it to the priest. But if the person is still alive, the priest cannot accept the recompense. The same is true today. In Fukien there was a maid who had stolen about sixty dollars worth of goods from her master. Later she believed in the Lord and felt that this was a sin. She proceeded to save about seventy dollars for recompense. One day she took this money to a worker of the Lord and told him to accept it and use it for God’s work. The brother asked if her master was still around, and she said that he was. The brother then said, "Why don’t you return this money to him?" Then he told her solemnly, "God does not need a thief’s money for His work." If I had been there, I would have said the same thing to her.
If a person has sinned against anyone in material possessions, he should find that same person and make the recompense. If that person is not around any longer, he should look for his relatives. If he does not have any relatives, the recompense can go to the church. Brothers and sisters, may God dig deeper in us. Does Acts 19:19 not tell us that those who believed burned improper books worth fifty thousand pieces of silver? The book of James also tells us that we have to confess our sins to one another (5:16). You are not responsible for the sins that you do not remember. But you have to be responsible for the sins that you do remember. May no one wait until tomorrow to obey God’s word.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 21: The Christian (1934-1940), Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)