CONVICTION OF SIN.
Psalm li. 4.—" Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight; that thou rnightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest."
The plan of salvation is designed for sinners. None are saved by that plan who are not regarded as such. The gospel has no significancy unless it be supposed that men are violators of the law of God. It has no peculiar adaptation to men except on that supposition. It seeks to excite the conviction that he is a sinner in the bosom of every man whom it addresses, and it is certain that no one will appreciate its provisions, or be saved by it, who does not feel and admit that truth in regard to himself. If there is, therefore, any one who is unwilling to admit, in the proper sense of the term., that he is a sinner, ho should not entertain the hope of being saved by the gospel, and should not feel himself specially addressed in any of its communications. It is indispensable that a man, if he would be saved, should be convinced of sin. The two preceding discourses were, respectively, on the state of man as the gospel finds him, and on the condition of the mind when it begins to reflect on the subject of religion. We advance a step further in unfolding the way of salvation by considering the state of the mind when under conviction for sin. I shall explain what is meant by the term; consider the law of our nature in accordance with which conviction for sin is produced; and show what it is that the sinner is convinced of in that state, or what constitutes genuine conviction of sin.
I. What is meant by the term conviction of sin. The short and perhaps the sufficient explanation of this is, being convinced of sin so as to feel and acknowledge that we are sinners. The term has, however, somewhat of a technical and theological signification which makes it necessary to explain it somewhat further; and unfortunately, also, it is so associated in the mind* of many with what they would be pleased to regard as cant or fanaticism—with Calvinism, or Methodism, or Evangelism—that it seems necessary, if I can. to dj something to remove this impression, and to show you that it is possible that sensible men may, without compromising their own dignity, become convinced that they are sinners. I would, then, submit to you the following remarks:—
(a) There is a state of mind, very common, which results from being convinced by argument. A course of reasoning may be so conclusive that there can bo no doubt on the subject. A mathematical proposition may be so demonstrated; an historical fact may be so established; a truth in morals may be so clearly proved; a jury may be so satisfied; a point in theology may be so defended, that no one can have any doubt on the truth of the point under consideration. And thus a man may be so thoroughly convinced that our race is fallen, and that he, as one of the race, has come into the world with a corrupt nature, that his mind may be as fully satisfied on this subject as he is of the truth of a mathematical proposition. Yet it is clear that, though thus convinced, this latter truth may be held in such a manner ns to make no more impression on his conscience and his heart than the mathematical demonstration had done. Though pertaining to itself, yet the mind has the power of looking at it as a mere abstraction ; and nothing is more common than for a man to be able to prove that he is himself a sinner, or to listen to an argument clearly demonstrating it, without emotion.
(b) Again, a man may not only look at this as an abstract argument, but he may have a very distinct recollection of wrong doing, and yet have no compunction, no remorse. By knowing or supposing that the fact is concealed; or by a cultivated habit of severe mental discipline; or by the hardening effect of many acts of guilt on his own soul; or by some perverted views of mental philosophy, morals, or theology, he may have succeeded in keeping his mind calm and undisturbed, though he is conscious that he has done wrong. The mind may be in such a state as to contemplate its own past acts of depravity as calmly as it does the depravity of others, and with as little compunction. This is the state of mind which men commonly seek; and in this they are frequently, for a time at least, eminently successful.
(c) Again, there is a kind of conviction of guilt from the testimony of others, which may produce as little impression on
. the soul. There is a difference, in this respect, between the use of the word in theology and in the courts. A man is convicted, or found guilty, by a jury, and is so regarded and treated by the court. But he may or may not be convinced of the crime himself, or be sensible of guilt in the matter. lie may bo a hardened wretch, so steeped in crime as to be apparently beyond the possibility of feeling; or he may be perfectly innocent of the crime, though he has been adjudged to be guilty by the jury, and is so held up to the public by the sentence of the court. But, in either case, the verdict of the jury and the sentence of the court have done nothing to convince him that he is guilty. He is convicted—not convinced. The verdict of the jury and the judgment of the court may or may not tend to convince him that he is guilty. That is a private, personal matter, with which the jury and the court have nothing to do. Even if guilty, the process in the court-room may have made no practical impression of his own criminality on his mind. He may have watched the evidence that has been adduced against him with the utmost attention, and may have no doubt when the verdict of the jury finding him guilty is rendered, that it is according to the testimony, and according to truth, and yet neither the evidence nor the verdict may have made any practical impression of guilt on his own mind.
(d) Again, there is a state of mind in which one who has been guilty of crime may, in the proper sense of the term, be convinced of it,—convinced neither as an abstract proposition, nor by the finding of a jury, nor by the judgment of a court, but as a personal matter and in the proper sense of the term, so as to produce a sense of wrong doing—distress in view of the past, and■ apprehension in view of what is to come. This is conviction of sin.
This, if not sufficiently plain already, can be made plain by a reference to the case already adverted to. A man on trial for his life has been convicted by a jury. We will suppose it to be a case where he before knew that he had committed the crime, but he was a hardened offender. For the crime when committed, or subsequently before the trial, or during the trial, he had had no compunction. He had so disciplined his moral and his physical frame as to obliterate all the natural expressions of criminality, and even so as to suppress all feeling of guilt. He went through the whole process of the trial with an unperturbed spirit, scarcely feeling any emotion, and betraying none. His was such an intellectual, and, to a great degree, such an abstract employment in watching the progress of the trial—in estimating the weight of the testimony—and in contemplating the skill of the counsel, that, in union with his former hardened character, and with the hope of escape, he may scarcely have had during the trial a single compunctious visitation of remorse. When the trial is over, however, and he is remanded to his lonely prison, and the darkness of the night in his cell draws on, and he has opportunity to reflect on the past, a kind of conviction may occur very different from that which has been found by the court and jury. Then it is of no use longer to dissemble. Then there is no hope of concealment. Then the mind is no longer diverted from its own criminality by watching the evidence, or by observing the intellectual conflicts of the counsel, or by indulging the hope of escape from conviction. Then nature acts, and the proper effect of guilt is felt in the soul. Then there comes to his soul the recollection of the nature and claims of the law which he has violated; the evil motives which actuated him; the base passions which controlled him; the wrong which has been done to an individual or to the community ; the sight of the suffering victim; the dishonour which he has brought upon himself or his family; the shame of the public death which he is to suffer; the better instructions which he had in his childhood, and of the better life which he might have led: and all these topics now find their way to his heart and conscience. This state of mind is quite different from what is meant by the conviction implied in the verdict of a jury. That is a declaration that he is guilty at the bar of his country ; this, that he is guilty at the bar of conscience and of God.
This is what I mean by conviction of sin. It is not merely that which is produced by argument; it is not merely that which arises from an intellectual process convincing one in general that he, as a man, is a sinner, as all other men are; it is that which exists when he sees and feels personally that he is guilty before God, and when the feeling is attended by the distress, trouble, apprehension and alarm, which, by the laws of our nature, are the proper concomitants of the consciousness of guilt.
I have only to say further, under this head, that this conviction of sin is, under the Divine government and in the plan of salvation, preliminary to, and necessary to, pardon. In a human government it may or it may not be. An executive in pardoning a convict from the penitentiary may not require this ; or may not act in view of it, if it does exist; nor would he feel bound to extend pardon in any case where it did exist—for pardon, under any human government, is not founded on this. The pardoned man, there may he still a hardened offender, or he may have been innocent all along, and in either case may have never felt any of the compunctions of guilt. It might contribute much, indeed, in a given case, to dispose an executive to pardon an offender if he was satisfied that he was truly penitent, but he would not feel bound on that account to pardon him if it were so, or to withhold pardon if it were not ; nor would pardon ever be extended on that sole ground at all. Not so in the Divine administration. There the genuine conviction—the feeling of personal guilt—is an indispensable preliminary to pardon ; and there, wherever and whenever it truly exists: by an arrangement in the plan of salvation it secures forgiveness.
II. My second object was to consider the law of our nature in accordance with which this conviction of sin is produced.
(a) That law, when nature acts freely, is simply this,—that when we have done wrong we feel guilty, or distressed on account of it. The mind itself decides that wrong has been done; the conscience rebukes and troubles us for having done it. This is an internal feeling; it springs up in the mind itself; it is the result of its own mysterious mechanism; it may be conceived of as existing apart from any apprehension of what is to come, and apart from any outward expression or manifestation whatever. It is simple self-condemnation of the act—a sense of wrong-doing—a sense of ill,desert. In the actual arrangements, however, it is connected with two things which serve to characterize it: (1) one is, the apprehension of punishment in the future—for the soul is so made as to feel that, if guilty, there is a Supreme Being whose wrath is to be feared; and (2) the other is, that, in our present bodily organization, it has a proper outward expression or sign. When nature acts freely, guilt is indicated by the blush of shame, the trembling limbs, the averted or downcast eye, the suspicious and suspecting look, the disposition to withdraw from the presence and the gaze of men. The God of nature, as he made man, intended that guilt should thus express itself, and it would always do it if the laws of our being were acted out.
(6) The design of this law of nature is threefold, and it is as beneficent as it is marvellous; it could have been devised only by a God who is at the same time just and good. It is (1), to deter us from committing crime by this consciousness of wrong— by the fear of this terrible rebuke—the dread of this self-condemnation ; (2), to induce us to repair a wrong that has been done, since under the regular law of our being we can never find peace unless confession is made and the wrong is repaired ; and (3), to be a means of recovering us from an evil course, and saving us from future suffering and sin, when we have done wrong. It is thus a great moral means of governing the world, and is thus also connected with a scheme of recovery from sin— inwrought into the whole plan of salvation. If man would always regard this he would bo deterred from sin; were it not for this, he, having sinned, could never be redeemed and saved. As it is, the plan of salvation will yet be seen to be based on great laws of our nature, and to be in great measure their development.
(c) But this great law of our nature, I need not remark, is not always operative. The instances already referred to, and thousands of well-known cases in the world, sufficiently illustrate this. The reasons why it is not so are too numerous to be specified here, and are not immediately necessary to the purpose which I have in view. I have said that if nature were true to herself, or rather if we were true to nature, the act of crime would be always and immediately followed by the convictions and by the indications of guilt,—the blush of conscious criminality ; the trembling of the frame; the apprehension of the wrath of God. But crime is committed often under the influence of strong passions, and the passion lingers after the act is done, and does not immediately leave the mind clear and free to act. Or, we dread the convictions of guilt, and try to vindicate ourselves, and by perverted reasoning ward off the consciousness of criminality. Or, we fear the shame of the manifestation of conscious guilt, and learn to discipline our frame so that it shall not betray us. Or, we have a fancied interest in the evil course, and by becoming absorbed in it turn the mind from the contemplation of the real guilt. Or, we bring ourselves under another law of our being—that by constantly practising iniquity we become less sensible of the evil; we acquire a confirmed habit; we make the conscience less susceptible and less quick in its decisions; we blind the mind to nice moral distinctions, and we harden the heart to the enormity of evil. In this way we learn to commit iniquity without blushing, without shame, and without remorse. The eye becomes fixed, and the hand steady, and the frame firm, even when doing conscious wrong. Men learn even to command the blood so that it shall not mantle the cheek to betray them, and learn to make the forehead smooth and cloudless. They go coolly into the work of crime and steep their hands in blood, or practise iniquity for years, with no sense of remorse, no rebuke of conscience. The cheek of the harlot, where the last blush of modesty has long since disappeared; the steady hand of the assassin ; the calm step of the midnight robber; the cool purpose of the seducer of innocence ; the " seared conscience" of the impenitent sinner; the unperturbed spirit of the man that neglects his God and Saviour, show how effectual may be this effort on the part of the guilty, and how the benevolent intentions of this law of our nature may be frustrated. Thus the brethren of Joseph, without compunction or remorse, pursued coolly their purpose toward their younger brother—a helpless, inoffensive, and lovely boy—first in proposing to kill him, then in thrusting him into a deep pit, and then in selling him to be exposed in a slave market in a distant land, and to be subjected to all the unknown evils of perpetual bondage there. Thus David, apparently with as little compunction or remorse at tho time, was guilty of an enormous wrong to a highly meritorious officer in his army, and a devoted patriot, by first destroying his domestic peace, and then seeking to kill him: having done him one wrong, laying a plan to do him another by plotting his death, and giving his instructions to that effect with a spirit as cool and undisturbed as if he had been giving an ordinary order about storming a fortress. Thus Judas Iscariot seems to have made the bargain for the betrayal of his Lord with as calm and unperturbed a spirit as he would have made a contract in the most common matters of trade, nor did the enormous guilt of the act which he was doing seem even to occur to his mind. I need not say that men often show that they have this power of extinguishing all the natural marks of guilt, and stifling for years all its convictions, in committing crime, or in the practices of vice. The conscience is " seared as with a hot iron;" the soul becomes lost to all the feelings of guilt, shame, modesty, decency, self-respect. The great law of nature, so wiso and so beneficent, so essential to the good of society and to the individual himself, is well nigh obliterated, and, for a time, may cease to act altogether.
(d) But there are arrangements in the soul itself, in society, ujider the Divine government, and in the plan of salvation, for reviving that law, and giving it its true place, and it is under that arrangement that men are convicted of sin. Those arrangements need not be adverted to now at length. They embrace all the devices for calling past sins to remembrance; for quickening the power and the decisions of conscience; for bringing the nature and the degree of guilt before the mind, and for arousing the souls of the guilty with the apprehensions of the wrath to come. There may be, from some cause, a mysterious recalling of those long-forgotten sins to the memory in such a way that their guilt may be deeply felt. The tumult of the mind which existed when the crime was committed may have subsided ; the passion which blinded the soul may have passed away ; the companions and associates of guilt may have gone to other lands or other worlds ; you may have leisure to think of the past, and may be in circumstances strongly fitted to recall the past to your remembrance :—in solitude; in the silence of the night-watches ; in affliction and trouble ; under the admonition of a friend, or under the preaching of the gospel, or by the silent influences of the Divine Spirit on the soul, these forgotten sins may rise to the remembrance, and the soul be overwhelmed with the consciousness of criminality. A brief allusion to the eases already referred to, will illustrate the operation of this law, and at the same time do something to show the nature of genuine conviction of sin.
Joseph's brethren had sold their innocent young brother to a company of travelling merchants. They appear to have divided the money, and to have supposed that that was an end of the matter. They invented the most plausible falsehood they could devise to deceive their aged father, and they gave themselves no more concern about it. Years passed away. A sore famine came upon their land. They were constrained to go to a distant country to buy food. There they were accused and arrested as spies. A strict inquiry was made of them respecting their family, their father, their younger brother at home. Everything was dark to them. A series of calamities had come upon them which they could not account for. They began to think of their former conduct and of God; and the wrong which they had done to their brother, though long forgotten, flashed upon their minds. " And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear ; therefore is this distress come upon us," Gen. xlii. 21. David, little impressed, as it would seem, at first, with the enormity of his crime, soon forgot it altogether. The faithful officer, the patriot, the husband who might have given him trouble, was out of the way—having fallen, as he intended, under the arrows of the Ammonites. The beautiful wife of that officer, David's partner in crime, he had taken to his home, and the crimes of adultery and murder appear to have been forgotten. But a man whom the monarch was accustomed to hear, and who spake in the name of God, came to the palace, and by one of the most beautiful and touching parables ever uttered, arrested the attention of the man of guilt, so that in a moment all the blackness of his crime stood before him, and broken-hearted he prostrated himself before his offended God, and pleaded for pardon. Judas seems to have taken his thirty pieces of silver, the price of treachery, and to have borne them off calmly, if not exultingly—having accomplished a leading purpose of his whole life in obtaining money, and being little troubled at the wrong that he had done. lie expected, perhaps, that ho who had so often evaded his enemies, and who had foiled their attempts to seize him, would do it again. But, contrary to these expectations, the Saviour had suffered himself to be taken. He was bound, he was tried, he was condemned, he was about to be crucified—and in a moment all his own guilt flashed in his face. He threw down the ignominious price of biood at the feet of his employers, and, stung by remorse, he went out and closed his life.
This, as I understand it, is the law of our nature under which conviction of sin is produced, and all that is done when a sinner is convicted is in accordance with this law, and is but carrying out an arrangement designed to deter him from the commission of crime, and to check and recover him to virtue, if it has been committed. It is under this law that the arrangement is made in the plan of salvation, that no man shall obtain pardon who does not feel that he is a sinner, or who is not truly convicted of sin.
Yet it is evident that there may bo a false, as well as a genuine conviction ; a conviction that shall arise from the mere dread of punishment, as well as that which arises from the intrinsic evil of sin; a conviction which will, as in the cuse of Judas, lead a sinner to the act of self-murder, as well as that which will lead, as in the case of the jailer at Philippi, or Saul of Tarsus, to true repentance.
III. It remains, then, in the third place, to state what is implied in genuine conviction of sin. Of what is the sinner convinced or convicted in this state of mind ? This question I answer by a few specifications.
(1.) It is his men sin of which he is convicted, and no other. It must be limited to his own ; he cannot be convicted of the sins of another. We are not carelessly made in this respect. Wo are so formed that the sense of guilt or blameworthiness can arise in the mind only in view of our own sins. We may have many emotions in view of the sins of others, and be concerned in them in most important ways, but we never have in regard to them the feeling of guilt, and it is no part of the way of salvation that we should have it. Over the sins of others wo may indeed weep on account of their folly; as a consequence of their faults we may suffer; for their sins we may be affected with shame and confusion of face, if they are the sins of those to whom we are united by the ties of blood or friendship, but we never have the sense of guilt or blameworthiness on account of them. You cannot have it. You can no more have this feeling on account of the sin of a father than on account of the sin of a stranger whom you have never seen before; on account of the sin of an erring son or daughter than on account of the folly of the son or daughter of your neighbour or of a stranger ; on account of the sin of Adam than on account of the sin of Judas Iscariot. You may, indeed, be affected by the one in a way in which you will not be by the other ; you may be made poor, and begin life under disadvantages, in consequence of the sin of a father, which you would not incur by the sin of a stranger; you may be clothed with shame, and filled with sorrow, by the sin of your own son or daughter, as you would not be by the folly of others ; you may have been—and you have certainly been— affected by the sin of Adam as you have not been by the sin of Judas—for to him we trace the origin of all our woes—the fact that we are fallen, that we have a depraved nature, that we are to die—and by his sin we may be affected for ever; but you no more feel guilt in the one case than in the other. You cannot if you try. You ought not if you could. It is not required of you in order to be saved; and if you imagine that you do feel guilty for his sin, or the sin of any other man but yourself, it is simply an hallucination of the mind. No man ever yet did feel it; no man ever can. The rocky shores of ocean are not fixed so firmly as this barrier in regard to the consciousness of guilt; the stars will fly from their spheres, before this law is changed—that the consciousness of guilt is attached to personal criminality, and to nothing else. You have no genuine conviction of sin but that which arises from your own guilt.
(2.) Genuine conviction of sin is a sense of its evil considered as committed against God. It is not a feeling produced by the fact that it has exposed us to shame, to disadvantage, or to punishment ; or that our fellow-men may have been wronged by us; or that it will blast our reputation, or will overwhelm those who are dear to us with disgrace. That one or more or all of these classes of feeling may be connected with genuine conviction of sin, there can be no doubt; but it is equally clear that there may be genuine and deep conviction where not one of them may exist, and that all these combined would not of themselves be such conviction ; for a man may have a deep apprehension of shame, of disgrace, and of punishment, and still never have felt that he was blameworthy. This idea which I am now presenting is the prominent one in my text:—" Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." It was true that David had committed an enormous wrong against a fellowman ; it was true that he had been guilty of an atrocious evil against society, and against good morals; but still, all this evil terminated on God, and the evil considered as committed against him was so vast and overwhelming that every other aspect of it was absorbed and lost. Whoever else was wronged, he was most wronged; whoever was injured, the great evil in the case consisted in the violation of his law; and whatever wrong had been done to an individual or to society, the grand evil in the case consisted in the fact that God had been disobeyed, and his law set at nought. So sin in all cases, whatever may be its form, and whoever may be aifected by it, is a violation of the law of God, and its grand evil is to be found in that fact. Approved by men or disapproved; followed with honour or disgrace ; punished or not punished; known to the world or unknown, it has an intrinsic evil in its nature as a violation of the Divine law ; and it is that evil which is always contemplated, and which is the source of the sorrow in genuine repentance. It is, then, in the view of the mind, an evil and a bitter thing. If you conceal it, it does not alter its nature ; if you could assure the penitent that it would be for ever unknown to any human being, and would never be followed by either shame or punishment, it would not essentially change the nature of his feelings towards it. He is sad at the remembrance of the fact that he has committed it; he feels himself degraded, and mortified, and debased that he has ever been guilty of violating the law of his God.
(3.) Though the fear of shame and punishment may not be the leading idea in genuine repentance, and may not even enter into it at all, yet there is a feeling always that it deserves punishment. This is inseparable, in the constitution of our minds, from the conviction of guilt. The guilty child feels that it would be right in a parent to punish him ; the man who has violated the laws of his country, and who has any proper sense of the evil of his course, feels that a penalty affixed to the law is right; the man who is sensible that he has sinned against his God feels that it is right that God should manifest his displeasure, and that the guilty should suffer. Ho may not be able to determine the amount of punishment that is due to his act, nor may he see clearly as yet that his sin deserves eternal punishment, or that it should throw him beyond the reach of mercy and hope,—hut it is of the nature of all true conviction of sin to feel that punishment is deserved, and that he who inflicts it is right and just. Thus David in the text says, " That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." A man cannot feel genuine conviction of sin and not feel that he ought to be punished. Hence men, under the pressure of this conviction, come and confess an act of murder, and give themselves up to bo punished. And hence sinners, when under genuine conviction of sin, look forward to punishment in the future world, and dread it, not so much because it is said that they will be punished, as because guilt always supposes that it will be so, and that it is right that it should be so.
These three things, therefore, I think will always enter into true conviction of sin,—that it is our own sins, and not those of another, on account of which we feel guilty ; that the primary and principal reason of our conviction is the fact that sin is itself an evil as committed against God; and that there is involved essentially the feeling that it deserves the expression of displeasure on the part of Him whose law has been violated. How deep these convictions may be; how long they may be continued; how pungent and distressing our feelings nnder them ; and how the distress is to be relieved, are other points of inquiry which it is not necessary now to consider. There are two or three remarks, however, which seem necessary to complete the just view of the subject, and with these I shall close.
(1.) These laws of our nature, on which conviction of sin is based, will be likely to operate in the future as well as in the present; in the world beyond the grave as well as in the land of the living. Why should they not ? There is to be no change in our essential constitution; and far on in the most distant portion of eternity to which we can now look forward, we shall bo under the administration of the same God, and the laws of our being will be essentially the same. Past sin, though long forgotten, may be called to remembrance. Time, distance, new circumstances, do not change or diminish its power over the soul. After the lapse of ten or twenty—of a hundred or a million of years, it may rise to the mind with all the freshness which it had at the time of committing the deed, and inflicting the same keen and fearful tortures, and exciting the same deep and dreadful alarms in the prospect of the future, which it ought to have caused then. He gains nothing, then, who succeeds in stifling conviction now; he has secured no permanent peace who has, for the present, wholly forgotten his past crimes.
(2.) It accords with my general subject, and with this part of my general plan, to say that in a way of salvation adapted to man, it is necessary that there should be something that will meet this law of our nature—that will be founded on the fact of its existence—and that will prevent the effect to which I have adverted in the future:—that is, that shall recognise the fact that man is a sinner, and that he is liable to be convicted of sin ; and that will so dispose of sin that it shall not produce distress and anguish in the future periods of our existence—at some time in our present life, on the bed of death, or beyond the grave. This must be done, and done in a way that shall accord with the proper method of dealing with sin and with the conscience. It will not do this to teach men to forget it—for they cannot always forget it; it will not do it to teach them that sin is a trifle—for God will not let them always feel that it is a trifle; it will not do this to introduce them into the circles of vain amusements—for men cannot always be engaged in vain amusements; it will not do it to teach them some false system of religion that shall be a present opiate to the conscience—for we are going to a world not of falsehood, but of truth.
(3.) It seems to follow from the view taken that the only way by which this can be done is by some system of effectual pardon. If sin is pardoned—if it is freely and fully forgiven, all is done that can be done to meet those laws of our being, and to place the soul in the condition in which it would have been if it had not sinned. If sin is pardoned, of course there is nothing to be dreaded as to punishment in the future; if sin is pardoned, the offender is placed essentially in the circumstances in which he was before he had sinned. A scheme of salvation, then, that is adapted to man, must embody and express some way by which a sinner may be forgiven.
(4.) Peace in such a case can be found only in connexion with confession of sin,—confession made not to a third person, but to the One whose law has been violated. All genuine conviction of sin prompts to this, and David was but acting out the law of our nature when he said, " I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned;" Job, when he said, " Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee ? I will lay my hand upon my mouth ;" the prodigal son, when he said, " I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight;" and the publican, when, not being able to lift up his eyes to heaven, he said, " God be merciful to me a sinner." " He that eovereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall find rnercy." You cannot find permanent peace by attempting to stifle the conviction of sin. You cannot by endeavouring to cover and conceal your offences. You cannot by suffering them to pass from your remembrance. You cannot by confessing your sins against God to man—though robed in a priestly vestment and consecrated with holy oil. You must go to God—a poor penitent—laden with the conviction of guilt-%,renouncing all attempts to justify yourself—admitting the full truth that you are a sinner—not attempting to cloak or conceal one of your transgressions ; saying substantially, as David did, " Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness ; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned," Psa. li. 1—4. So pleading, by faith in the blood that cleanseth from all sin—the blood of the Redeemer—your " sins will be blotted out as a cloud, and your transgressions as a thick cloud," Isa. xliv. 22. So pleading, you will hear the voice which so often gave relief to the troubled soul when the Redeemer walked on the earth, " Thy sins be forgiven thee, go in peace'."