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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Taken from The Baptist Tract, Dec. 1832
I once knew a boy who was entrusted with a letter to be carried to a distant place. On his way, or just after his arrival, in attempting to take the letter out of his pocket suddenly, he tore it completely in two. He was in consternation. What to do, he did not know. Ile did not dare to carry the letter in its mangled condition, and he did not dare to destroy it. He did accordingly the most foolish thing he could do; he kept it for many days, doubting and waiting, and feeling anxious and unhappy, whenever it came in his sight. At last he thought that this was folly, and he took his letter, carried it to the person to whom it was addressed, saying,
"Here is a letter which I was entrusted with for you, and in taking it out of my pocket. I very carelessly tore it in two. I am sorry for it, but I have no excuse."
The receiver of the letter said, it was no matter, and the boy went home suddenly and entirely relieved.
My reader will say, Why this was a very simple way of getting over the difficulty. Why did he not think of it before?
I know it was a simple way. The whole story is so simple that it is hardly dignified enough to introduce here, but it is true, and it exactly illustrates the idea I am endeavoring to enforce here - that in little things, as well as in great things, the confession of sin restores peace of mind.
I will now mention one other case which illustrates the same general truth, but which is in one respect very strikingly different from all the preceding.
A merchant was one morning sitting in his counting room, preparing for the business of the day, when his boy entered with several letters from the post office. Among them was one in a strange handwriting, and with the words, "Money enclosed" written upon the outside. As the merchant was not at that time expecting any money, his attention was first attracted to this letter. He opened it and read somewhat as follows
Jan. 4, 1831
"Some time ago I defrauded you of some money. You did not know it then, and I suppose you never would have known it, unless I had informed you. But I have had no peace of mind, since it was done, and send you back the money in this letter. Hoping that God will forgive this and all my other sins,
I remarked that this case was to be totally different from the other in one respect.
Reader, do you notice the difference? It consists in this, that here not only was the sin confessed, but reparation was made. The man not only acknowledged the fraud, but he paid back the money.
If any of my readers are but little acquainted with human nature, they may perhaps imagine, that it was the reparation, and not the confession which restored peace of mind. But I think I can show very clearly, that making reparation is not effectual.
Suppose this man, instead of writing the above letter, had just come into the store and asked to buy some article or other, and in paying for it, had managed dexterously to put in the hands of the clerk, a larger sum than was due, so as to repay, without the merchant's knowledge, the whole amount of which he had defrauded him.
Do you think this would have restored his peace of mind? No, not even if he had thus secretly paid back double what he had unjustly taken. It was the confession; the acknowledgment of having done wrong which really quieted his troubled conscience, and gave him peace.
It is not probable, that this confession was sufficient to make him perfectly happy again, because it was incomplete. The reparation was perfect, but the acknowledgment was not. The reader will observe that the letter has no name signed to it, and the merchant could not by any means discover who was the writer of it.
Now if the man had honestly told the whole, if he had written his name and place of residence, and described fully all the circumstances of the original fraud, he would have been much more fully relieved.
All confession which is intended to bring back peace of mind when it is gone, should be open and thorough. There are, indeed, many cases where, from peculiar circumstances in such a case as this, it is not the duty of the individual to give his name. This, however, does not affect the general principle, that the more full and free the confession is the more perfect will be the restoration of peace.
So strongly is this principle fixed by the Creator in the human heart, that men who have committed crimes to which the laws of the land annex the most severe public punishments, after enduring some time in secrecy, the remorse which crime almost always brings, have at last openly come forward, and surrendered themselves to the magistrate. And have acknowledged their guilt, and have felt their hearts relieved and lightened, by receiving an ignominious public punishment in exchange for the inward tortures of remorse.
Even a murderer has been known to come forward to relieve the horrors of his soul by confession though he knows that this confession will chain him in a dark stone cell, and after a short, but gloomy interval, extend him in a coffin.