Jonathan Edwards and Resolutions (65): Confessing Sin
65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26 and Aug. 10, 1723.
You can find the e-book to Dr. Thomas Manton's 190 sermons (you read that right) on Psalm 119 right here. The specific one Edwards is referencing is the 27th sermon in that series (verse 26). There is something freeing about holy, humble, God-centered openness. That sort of honesty is dealt with inside the empty tomb of Christ and out of it emerges a man who loves God and His gospel and spends his life expanding God's Kingdom here on earth.
There are two things I want to say as it relates to this resolution. The first is that this sort of openness is not selfish. It isn't the sort of openness that one has in a Roman Catholic confessional to ease a guilty conscience. There is such a thing as a selfish confession (most of our confessions I fear are selfish). A selfish confession is the sort of confession that doesn't require repentance nor does it give any thought to restitution. People who confess their sins in this way aren't mindful of the Lord or how their sin has devastated those close to them. This confession isn't driven by a love of God nor a love of others. It is driven by a love of self. Don't confess in this manner.
The second thing I'd add is that this sort of eager openness with the Lord that Edwards describes is encouraged in the context of a healthy local church. He doesn't mention a local church in the resolution (although this resolution was sparked by reading a sermon Manton gave in God's assembly), but I would say that this sort of confession is difficult to maintain apart from it. Hebrews 3:12-14 helps put this into perspective:
12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,"
Being faithful in the context of the local church (like those Hebrew Christians were) is a means the Lord uses to help us not be deceived or blinded by sin. We don't see things too well on our own. The public worship of God has a direct impact on our ability to see ourselves (according to the Holy Spirit's illumination of the Word), confess our sins openly and honestly before God, and be reminded of the blood of Jesus that washes even the deepest stains of our sins (Isaiah 1:18).
So, with the all-sufficient work of Jesus in your head and heart- declare your ways to God. It is good for you. It is good for your family. And it will serve God's church well.