A Method for Prayer was written by Matthew Henry, March 25, 1710. For ease of reading, the editors have sought to update some of the author’s language. http://www.matthewhenry.org/
About the author
Matthew Henry (1662-1714) is best remembered for his Commentary on the Whole Bible, which he began in 1704. He completed Genesis through Acts by the time of his death. He was born near Whitchurch (Salop), England. He began preaching at the age of 23 and spent most of his ministry as pastor of a church in Chester (1687-1712).
- (1) Acknowledgement of the Need for Lowliness Before God
- (2) Take Hold of the God-Given Encouragement you Have to Confess Sin
- (3) Confess and Bewail your Original Corruption
- (4) Lament your Disposition to Evil
- (4.1) Lament and Confess your Blind Understanding
- (4.2) Lament and Confess your Stubborn Will
- (4.3) Lament and Confess your Vain Thoughts
- (4.4) Lament and Confess your Carnal Affections
- (4.5) Lament and Confess the Corruption of your Entire Being
- (5) Lament and Confess your Sins of Omission
- (6) Bewail your Many Actual Transgressions
- (6.1) Bewail your Pride
- (6.2) Bewail your Anger
- (6.3) Bewail your Love of the World
- (6.4) Bewail your Love of the Flesh
- (6.5) Bewail your False Security
- (6.6) Bewail your Fretfulness and Impatience
- (6.7) Bewail your Lack of Love for Others
- (6.8) Bewail your Sins of the Tongue
- (6.9) Bewail your Spiritual Sloth
- (7) Acknowledge the Great Evil of Sin
- (7.1) Acknowledge the Sinfulness of Sin
- (7.2) Acknowledge the Foolishness of Sin
- (7.3) Acknowledge the Unprofitableness of Sin
- (7.4) Acknowledge the Deceitfulness of Sin
- (7.5) Acknowledge that Sin is an Affront to the Holy God
- (7.6) Acknowledge that Sin Damages the Soul
- (8) Consider the Evilness of your Sins
- (8.1) Consider your Evil Sins in Light of your Moral Knowledge
- (8.2) Consider your Evil Sins in Light of your Profession of Faith
- (8.3) Consider your Evil Sins in Light of the Mercy of God
- (8.4) Consider your Evil Sins in Light of the Warnings of God
- (8.5) Consider your Evil Sins in Light of the Corrections you have Received
- (8.6) Consider your Evil Sins in Light of the Vows you have Made
- (9) Understand the Condemning Nature of your Sin
- (10) Give Glory to God for His Patience toward you and His Willingness to be Reconciled
- (11) Humbly Profess your Sorrow and Shame for Sin
Introduction and Acknowledgement of the Need for Lowliness before God
Of the Second Part of Prayer, which is Confession of Sin, Complaints Regarding Ourselves, and Humble Professions of Repentance
Having ascribed glory to God, which is his due, Psalm 29:2(ESV) we must next take shame to ourselves, which is our due, and humble ourselves before him in the sense of our own sinfulness and vileness; and herein also we must give glory to him, Joshua 7:19(ESV) as our Judge, by whom we deserve to be condemned, and yet hope, through Christ, to be acquitted and absolved.
In this part of our work,
1. Acknowledgement of the Need for Lowliness Before God
We must acknowledge the great reason we have to lie very low before God and to be ashamed of ourselves when we come into his presence and to be afraid of his wrath, having made ourselves both odious to his holiness and obnoxious to his justice.
O our God, we are ashamed and blush to lift our faces to you, our God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our head, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. Ezra 9:6(ESV)
To us belongs open shame, because we have sinned against you. Daniel 9:8(ESV)
Behold we are of small account, what shall we answer you? We lay our hand on our mouth, Job 40:4(ESV) and put our mouth in the dust, for there may yet be hope, Lamentations 3:29(ESV) crying with the convicted leper under the law, “Unclean, unclean.” Leviticus 13:45(ESV)
You put no trust in your holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in your sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, man who drinks injustice like water! Job 15:15-16(ESV)
When our eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts, we have reason to cry out, “Woe to us, for we are lost!” Isaiah 6:5(ESV)
Dominion and fear are with you; you make peace in your high heaven: Is there any number to your armies? Upon whom does your light not arise? How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? Job 25:2-4(ESV)
But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? Psalm 76:7(ESV) You, our God, are a consuming fire; Hebrews 12:29(ESV) and who considers the power of your anger? Psalm 90:11(ESV)
If we claimed to be in the right, our own mouth would condemn us; if we said, “We are blameless,” you would prove us perverse; Job 9:20(ESV) for if you contend with us, we could not answer you once in a thousand times. Job 9:3(ESV)
If we were not aware of anything against ourselves, yet we are not thereby acquitted, for he who judges us is the Lord, 1 Corinthians 4:4(ESV) who is greater than our hearts and knows everything. 1 John 3:20(ESV) But we ourselves know that we have sinned, Father, against heaven and before you, and are no longer worthy to be called your children. Luke 15:21(ESV)
2. Take Hold of the God-Given Encouragement you Have to Confess Sin
We must take hold of the great encouragement God has given us to humble ourselves before him with sorrow and shame, and to confess our sins.
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared; Psalm 130:3-4(ESV) with you there is steadfast love; yes, with our God there is plentiful redemption, and he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Psalm 130:7-8(ESV)
Your sacrifices, O God, are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise; Psalm 51:17(ESV) indeed, though you are the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; Isaiah 57:15(ESV) though heaven is your throne and the earth your footstool, yet this is the one to whom you will look: he who is poor and humble, broken and contrite in spirit, and trembles at your word; Isaiah 66:1-2(ESV) to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15(ESV)
You have graciously assured us that those who conceal their transgressions will not prosper, yet those who confess and forsake them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13(ESV) And when a poor penitent said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” you forgave the iniquity of his sin; therefore, let everyone who is godly, in like manner, offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found. Psalm 32:5-6(ESV)
We know that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but you have said that if we confess our sins, you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9(ESV)
3. Confess and Bewail your Original Corruption
We must therefore confess and bewail our original corruption in the first place: that we are the children of apostate and rebellious parents, and the nature of man is depraved and has wretchedly degenerated from its primitive purity and rectitude, and such is our nature.
Lord, you made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes; Ecclesiastes 7:29(ESV) and being in pomp, they did not understand, and therefore did not remain, but became like the beasts that perish. Psalm 49:20(ESV)
Through one man sin came into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned: Romans 5:12(ESV) By that one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, including all of us. Romans 5:19(ESV)
We are the offspring of evildoers; Isaiah 1:4(ESV) our father was an Amorite and our mother a Hittite; and we ourselves were called (and not miscalled) rebels from before birth, and you knew we would deal treacherously. Isaiah 48:8(ESV)
The nature of man was planted a choice and noble vine, wholly of pure seed, but it has turned degenerate and become a wild vine, Jeremiah 2:21(ESV) producing the grapes of Sodom and the clusters of Gomorrah. Deuteronomy 32:32(ESV) How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed! Lamentations 4:1(ESV)
Behold, we were brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did our mothers conceive us. Psalm 51:5(ESV) For, who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. Job 14:4(ESV) We are by nature children of wrath, because children of disobedience, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:2-3(ESV)
All flesh has corrupted their way; Genesis 6:12(ESV) we have all turned aside; together we have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Psalm 14:3(ESV)
4. Lament your Disposition to Evil and Confess your Blind Understanding and Stubborn Will
We must lament our present corrupt dispositions to that which is evil, and our aversion to and impotency in that which is good. We must look into our own hearts and confess with holy blushing:
4.1 The blindness of our understandings and their unaptness to admit the rays of the divine light.
By nature our understandings are darkened, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in us, due to the hardness of our hearts. Ephesians 4:18(ESV)
The things of the Spirit of God are folly to the natural person; neither can we understand them, in and of ourselves, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14(ESV)
We are ‘wise’ – in doing evil! But how to do good we know not. Jeremiah 4:22(ESV) We have neither knowledge nor understanding, we walk about in darkness. Psalm 82:5(ESV)
God speaks in one way, and in two, though we do not perceive it; Job 33:14(ESV) we indeed hear but never understand; Matthew 13:14(ESV) and we see men, but they look like trees, walking. Mark 8:24(ESV)
4.2 The stubbornness of our wills and their unaptness to submit to the rules of the divine law.
We have within us a mind that is set on the flesh, which is hostile to God and does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Romans 8:7(ESV)
Were you to write for us your laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded by us as a strange thing; Hosea 8:12(ESV) and our corrupt hearts have been sometimes ready to say, “What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?” Job 21:15(ESV) And, “We will do everything that we have vowed.” Jeremiah 44:17(ESV) For we have walked in the ways of our own heart and in the sight of our eyes, Ecclesiastes 11:9(ESV) carrying out the desires of the flesh and the mind. Ephesians 2:3(ESV)
Our neck has been an iron sinew, Isaiah 48:4(ESV) and we have made our hearts diamond-hard; we have refused to pay attention, have turned a stubborn shoulder, Zechariah 7:11-12(ESV) and stopped our ears like the deaf adder that will not hear the voice of charmers or of the cunning enchanter. Psalm 58:4-5(ESV)
How we have hated discipline, and our hearts despised reproof! We did not listen to the voice of our teachers or incline our ears to our instructors. Proverbs 5:12-13(ESV)
4.3 Lament and Confess your Vain Thoughts and Carnal Affections
The vanity of our thoughts, their neglect of those things which they ought to be conversant with and dwelling upon those things that are unworthy of them and tend to corrupt our minds.
Every intention of the thoughts of our heart is evil, only evil, and that continually, Genesis 6:5(ESV) and it has been so from our youth. Genesis 8:21(ESV)
O how long have those wicked thoughts lodged within us! Jeremiah 4:14(ESV) Like the devising of folly, those thoughts are sin. Proverbs 24:9(ESV) From within, out of the heart, come evil thoughts, Matthew 15:19(ESV) which devise evil on the bed, Micah 2:1(ESV) and carry the heart with the fool’s eyes to the ends of the earth. Proverbs 17:24(ESV)
But God is not in all our thoughts; Psalm 10:4(ESV) it is well if he is in any of them. Of the Rock that bore us, we have been unmindful and have forgotten the God who gave us birth: Deuteronomy 32:18(ESV) We have forgotten him days without number, Jeremiah 2:32(ESV) and our hearts have gone after worthlessness and become worthless. Jeremiah 2:5(ESV) Our inward thought having been that our houses should continue forever; this, our way, is the path of those who have foolish confidence. Psalm 49:11-13(ESV)
4.4 The carnality of our affections, their being placed upon wrong objects and carried beyond due bounds.
We have set our minds on things beneath, which should have been set on things above, where our treasure is, Matthew 6:21(ESV) where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; Colossians 3:1-2(ESV) these are the things which we should seek.
We have paid regard to vain idols and forsaken our hope of steadfast love; Jonah 2:8(ESV) have forsaken the fountain of living waters, for cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13(ESV)
We have trampled the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, Amos 2:7(ESV) and have been anxious concerning what we shall eat and what we shall drink and what we shall wear, the things after which the Gentiles seek. Matthew 6:31-33(ESV)
We have lifted up our souls to what is false, Psalm 24:4(ESV) and set our eyes on that which is nothing; have looked at the things that are seen, which are temporal, but the things that are eternal have been forgotten and postponed. 2 Corinthians 4:18(ESV)
4.5 Lament and Confess the Corruption of your Entire Being
The corruption of the whole man: Irregular appetites towards those things that are pleasing to sense, and inordinate passions against those things that are displeasing, and an alienation of the mind from the principles, powers, and pleasures of the spiritual and divine life.
We are born of the flesh, and we are flesh. John 3:6(ESV) Dust we are: Genesis 3:19(ESV) We have borne the image of the man of dust; 1 Corinthians 15:49(ESV) and in us (that is, in our flesh) dwells nothing good. For we have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out; for we do not do the good we want, but the evil we do not want is what we keep on doing. Romans 7:18-19(ESV)
We have a law in our members waging war against the law of our mind and making us captive to the law of sin that dwells in our members; Romans 7:23(ESV) so that when we want to do right, evil lies close at hand, Romans 7:21(ESV) and clings to us so closely. Hebrews 12:1(ESV)
The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint; from the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in us, but bruises and sores and raw wounds. Isaiah 1:5-6(ESV)
There is in us a bent to turn away from the living God: Hosea 11:7(ESV) Our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand them? Jeremiah 17:9(ESV) They start aside like a treacherous bow. Hosea 7:16(ESV)
5. Lament and Confess your Sins of Omission
We must lament and confess our omissions of duty, our neglect of it and triflings in it; and that we have done so little since we came into the world of the great work we were sent into the world about, so very little to answer the end of our creation or of our redemption, of our birth and of our baptism; and that we have profited no more by the means of grace.
We have been as fig trees planted in the vineyard, and you have come many years seeking fruit from us but have found none; and therefore we might justly be cut down and thrown into the fire for using up the ground: Luke 13:6-7(ESV) You have come looking for grapes, but behold wild grapes; Isaiah 5:4(ESV) for we have been empty vines bringing forth fruit to ourselves. Hosea 10:1(ESV)
We have known the right thing to do, but have failed to do it. James 4:17(ESV) We have hidden our Master’s money, Matthew 25:18(ESV) and therefore deserve the doom of the wicked and slothful servant. Matthew 25:26(ESV)
We have been unfaithful stewards who have wasted our Lord’s possessions; Luke 16:1(ESV) for one sinner destroys much good. Ecclesiastes 9:18(ESV)
Often there has been money in our hands to buy wisdom, yet we have had no sense to; Proverbs 17:16(ESV) or like the fool our heart has been inclined to the left. Ecclesiastes 10:2(ESV)
Our youth and dawn of life were vanity, Ecclesiastes 11:10(ESV) and we have brought our years to an end like a sigh. Psalm 90:9(ESV)
We have not known or improved the day of our visitation; Luke 19:44(ESV) have not prepared bread in summer nor gathered food in harvest, though we have had chiefs, officers, and rulers. Proverbs 6:7-8(ESV)
We are slow of heart to understand and believe; Luke 24:25(ESV) and though by this time we ought to be teachers of others, we are yet to learn the basic principles of the oracles of God: we have need of milk, and cannot bear solid food. Hebrews 5:12(ESV)
We have done away with the fear of God and hindered meditation before God; Job 15:4(ESV) we have not called upon your name, nor roused ourselves to take hold of you. Isaiah 64:7(ESV)
We have come to you as your people come, and have sat before you as your people sit, and have heard what you have said, when our hearts at the same time have been set after gain. Ezekiel 33:31(ESV) And thus have we brought the torn and the lame and the sick for sacrifice; have presented to our God that which we would not have presented to our governor; Malachi 1:8(ESV) and have vowed and sacrificed to the Lord what is blemished, when we had in our flock a male. Malachi 1:14(ESV)
6. Bewail your Many Actual Transgressions, Especially your Pride
We must likewise bewail our many actual transgressions, in thought, word, and deed.
We have sinned, Father, against heaven and before you: Luke 15:18(ESV) we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God; Romans 3:23(ESV) for the God in whose hand is our breath and whose are all our ways, we have not honored. Daniel 5:23(ESV)
Against you, you only, have we sinned and done what is evil in your sight; Psalm 51:4(ESV) neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he has set before us, Daniel 9:10(ESV) though they are holy and righteous and good. Romans 7:12(ESV)
Who can discern his errors? Declare us innocent from hidden faults. Psalm 19:12(ESV)
In many things we stumble, James 3:2(ESV) and our iniquities are more than the hairs of our head. Psalm 40:12(ESV)
As a well keeps its water fresh, so our hearts keep fresh their evil; Jeremiah 6:7(ESV) and this has been our way from our youth up, that we have not obeyed your voice. Jeremiah 22:21(ESV)
Out of the evil treasure of our hearts, we have brought forth much evil. Matthew 12:35(ESV)
6.1 We must confess and bewail the workings of pride in us.
We have every reason to be humbled for the pride of our hearts; 2 Chronicles 32:26(ESV) for we have thought of ourselves more highly than we ought to think and have not thought with sober judgment, Romans 12:3(ESV) nor have we walked humbly with our God. Micah 6:8(ESV)
We have leaned on our own understanding, Proverbs 3:5(ESV) and trusted in our own minds, Proverbs 28:26(ESV) and have sacrificed to our own net. Habakkuk 1:16(ESV)
We have sought our own glory more than the glory of him who sent us, John 7:18(ESV) and have been arrogant concerning that for which we should have mourned. 1 Corinthians 5:2(ESV)
Bewail your Anger, Love of the World, and Love of the Flesh
6.2 The breaking out of passion and rash anger.
We have not had the rule which we ought to have had over our own spirits, which have therefore been like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28(ESV)
We have been quick in our spirits to become angry, and anger has lodged in our bosoms. Ecclesiastes 7:9(ESV) And when our spirits have been made bitter, we have spoken rashly with our lips, Psalm 106:33(ESV) and have been guilty of that clamor and bitterness which should have been put far from us. Ephesians 4:31(ESV)
6.3 Our covetousness and love of the world.
Our life has not been free from love of money, Hebrews 13:5(ESV) nor have we learned in whatever situation we are to be content. Philippians 4:11(ESV)
Who can say that he is clean from that love of money which is the root of all kinds of evil, 1 Timothy 6:10(ESV) that covetousness which is idolatry? Colossians 3:5(ESV)
We have sought great things for ourselves when you have said, “Seek them not.” Jeremiah 45:5(ESV)
6.4 Our sensuality and flesh-pleasing.
We have set our minds on the things of the flesh more than the things of the Spirit, Romans 8:5(ESV) and have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence, and have fattened our hearts in a day of slaughter. James 5:5(ESV)
We have made provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires, Romans 13:14(ESV) even those passions which wage war against our souls; 1 Peter 2:11(ESV) and in many instances, we have acted as if we had been lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. 2 Timothy 3:4(ESV)
When we eat and when we drink, do we not eat for ourselves and drink for ourselves? Zechariah 7:6(ESV)
Bewail your False Security, Fretfulness, and Impatience
6.5 Our security and unmindfulness of the changes we are liable to in this world.
We have put far from us the day of disaster; Amos 6:3(ESV) and in our prosperity have said, “We shall never be moved,” Psalm 30:6(ESV) as if tomorrow will be like this day, great beyond measure. Isaiah 56:12(ESV)
We have encouraged our souls to relax, to eat and drink and be merry, as if we had goods laid up for many years, when perhaps this night our souls may be required of us. Luke 12:19-20(ESV)
We have been ready to set our hope on the uncertainty of riches, more than on the living God; 1 Timothy 6:17(ESV) to say to the gold, “You are our hope,” and to the fine gold, “You are our confidence.” Job 31:24(ESV)
6.6 Our fretfulness and impatience and murmuring under our afflictions, our inordinate dejection and distrust of God and his providence.
When you have disciplined us, and we were disciplined, we have been like an untrained calf; Jeremiah 31:18(ESV) and though our own folly has brought our way to ruin, yet our heart has raged against the LORD; Proverbs 19:3(ESV) and thus, in our distress we have become yet more faithless to the LORD. 2 Chronicles 28:22(ESV)
We have either despised the LORD’s discipline or been weary of his reproof; Proverbs 3:11(ESV) and if we faint in the day of adversity, our strength is small. Proverbs 24:10(ESV)
We have said in our alarm, “We are cut off from your sight”; Psalm 31:22(ESV) and, “The LORD has forsaken us, our Lord has forgotten us”; Isaiah 49:14(ESV) as if God would never again be favorable, Psalm 77:7(ESV) as if he had forgotten to be gracious and had in anger shut up his compassion. Psalm 77:9(ESV) This has been our infirmity.
6.7 Bewail your Lack of Love for Others
Our uncharitableness towards our brethren, and unpeaceableness with our relations, neighbors, and friends, and perhaps injustice towards them.
We have been very guilty concerning our brother; Genesis 42:21(ESV) for we have not pursued what makes for peace or for mutual upbuilding. Romans 14:19(ESV)
We have been ready to judge our brother and to despise him, forgetting that we must shortly stand before the judgment seat of God. Romans 14:10(ESV)
Contrary to the royal law of love, we have boasted and been arrogant, have been rude and insisted on our own way; we have been irritable, have rejoiced at wrongdoing, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6(ESV) and been secretly glad at calamities. Proverbs 17:5(ESV)
We have been conceited, provoking one another, envying one another, Galatians 5:26(ESV) when we should have considered how to stir up one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10:24(ESV)
Our hearts have been closed against those who are in need; 1 John 3:17(ESV) and we have hidden ourselves from our own flesh. Isaiah 58:7(ESV) Indeed, perhaps our eye has looked grudgingly on our poor brother, Deuteronomy 15:9(ESV) and we have dishonored the poor. James 2:6(ESV)
And if in anything we have transgressed and wronged our brother, 1 Thessalonians 4:6(ESV) if we have walked with falsehood, and our foot has hastened to deceit, Job 31:5(ESV) and if any spot has stuck to our hands, Job 31:7(ESV) Lord, discover it to us, that if we have done iniquity, we may do it no more. Job 34:32(ESV)
Bewail your Sins of the Tongue and Spiritual Sloth
6.8 Our tongue sins.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking; Proverbs 10:19(ESV) nor can a man full of talk be judged right. Job 11:2(ESV)
While the lips of the righteous feed many, Proverbs 10:21(ESV) our lips have poured out folly, Proverbs 15:2(ESV) and known what is perverse. Proverbs 10:32(ESV)
Much corrupt talk has come out of our mouths; that foolish talking and crude joking, which are out of place, Ephesians 5:4(ESV) and little of that which is good and to the use of building up, and which might give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29(ESV)
If people will give account for every careless word they speak, and if by our words we will be justified and by our words we will be condemned, Matthew 12:36-37(ESV) woe to us! For we are lost; for we are of unclean lips and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. Isaiah 6:5(ESV)
What would become of us, if God should make our own tongues turn against us? Psalm 64:8(ESV)
6.9 Our spiritual slothfulness and decay.
We have been slothful in zeal for religion and not fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11(ESV)
The things which remain are about to die, and our works have not been found complete in the sight of God. Revelation 3:2(ESV)
We have observed the winds, and therefore have not sown; have regarded the clouds, and therefore have not reaped; Ecclesiastes 11:4(ESV) and with the sluggard have frightened ourselves with the fancy of a lion in the road, a lion in the streets, and have turned on our bed as a door on its hinges, Proverbs 26:13-14(ESV) still crying, “A little sleep, a little slumber.” Proverbs 6:10(ESV)
We have lost our first love, Revelation 2:4(ESV) and what then has become of the blessing we felt? Galatians 4:15(ESV)
Our love has been like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. Hosea 6:4(ESV)
And that which is at the bottom of all is the evil, unbelieving heart in us, which inclines us to fall away from the living God. Hebrews 3:12(ESV)
7. Acknowledge the Great Evil of Sin, its Sinfulness and Foolishness
We must acknowledge the great evil that there is in sin, and in our sin; the malignity of its nature, and its mischievousness to us.
7.1 The sinfulness of sin.
O that sin might be shown to be sin to us and appear in its own colors; and through the commandment may we see it to be sinful beyond measure, Romans 7:13(ESV) because it is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4(ESV)
By every willful sin we have in effect said, “We do not want this man to reign over us.” Luke 19:14(ESV) And, “Who is the LORD, that we should obey his voice?” Exodus 5:2(ESV) And thus have we reviled the LORD, Numbers 15:30(ESV) and cast his law behind our back. Nehemiah 9:26(ESV)
7.2 The foolishness of sin.
O God, you know our folly; the wrongs that we have done are not hidden from you. Psalm 69:5(ESV) We were foolish in being disobedient, Titus 3:3(ESV) and our desires are senseless and harmful. 1 Timothy 6:9(ESV)
Folly was bound up in our hearts when we were children; Proverbs 22:15(ESV) for though vain man would be wise, he is born like the wild donkey’s colt. Job 11:12(KJV)
Our path has been one of foolish confidence, Psalm 49:13(ESV) and in many instances we have done very foolishly. 2 Samuel 24:10(ESV)
We have been brutish and ignorant, and even like beasts toward God. Psalm 73:22(ESV)
Acknowledge the Great Evil of Sin, its Unprofitableness and Deceitfulness
7.3 The unprofitableness of sin.
We have sinned and perverted what was right, and it did not profit us. Job 33:27(KJV)
What fruit are we getting from the things of which we are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. Romans 6:21(ESV) And what are we profited if we should gain the whole world and forfeit our own souls? Matthew 16:26(ESV)
7.4 The deceitfulness of sin.
Sin has deceived us, and through the commandment killed us; Romans 7:11(ESV) for our hearts have been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, Hebrews 3:13(ESV) and we have been lured and enticed by our own desires. James 1:14(ESV)
It has promised us freedom, but has made us slaves of corruption; 2 Peter 2:19(ESV) has promised us that we shall not surely die and that we shall be like God, Genesis 3:4-5(ESV) but it has flattered us and spread a net for our feet. Proverbs 29:5(ESV)
The pride of our heart, particularly, has deceived us. Obadiah 1:3(ESV)
Acknowledge that Sin is an Affront to the Holy God and Damages the Soul
7.5 The offense which by sin we have given to the Holy God.
By breaking the law we have dishonored God, Romans 2:23(ESV) and given bitter provocation Hosea 12:14(ESV) to the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 1:4(ESV) And many a thing that we have done has displeased the Lord. 2 Samuel 11:27(ESV)
God has been broken over our whoring heart and our eyes that have gone whoring after our idols. Ezekiel 6:9(ESV)
We have put him to the test, and to the proof, and grieved him in the wilderness; Psalm 95:9-10(ESV) have rebelled, and grieved his Holy Spirit, Isaiah 63:10(ESV) and pressed him down with our iniquities, as a cart full of sheaves presses down. Amos 2:13(ESV)
We have grieved the Holy Spirit of God, by whom we were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30(ESV)
7.6 The damage which by sin we have done to our own souls and their great interests.
For our iniquities we were sold; Isaiah 50:1(ESV) and in sinning against you, we have wronged our own souls. Proverbs 8:36(KJV)
Our sins have made a separation between us and our God, Isaiah 59:2(ESV) and have kept good from us; Jeremiah 5:25(ESV) and by them, our minds and consciences have been defiled. Titus 1:15(ESV)
Our own evil has chastised us, and our apostasy has reproved us; and we cannot but know and see that it is evil and bitter for us to forsake the LORD our God, and that his fear has not been in us. Jeremiah 2:19(ESV)
O what fools are they who mock at sin! Proverbs 14:9(KJV)
8. Consider your Evil Sins in Light of your Moral Knowledge and Profession of Faith
We must aggravate* our sins and take notice of those things which make them more heinous in the sight of God and more dangerous to ourselves.
We bewail before you all our iniquities, all our transgressions, and all our sins. Leviticus 16:21(ESV)
8.1 The more knowledge we have of good and evil, the greater is our sin.
We have known our Master’s will but have not done it, and therefore deserve a severe beating. Luke 12:47(ESV)
We have known the way of the LORD and the justice of our God, and yet have broken the yoke and burst the bonds. Jeremiah 5:4-5(ESV)
We have known God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, and yet have not only done them, but given approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:32(ESV)
We have taught others, and yet have not taught ourselves; Romans 2:21(ESV) and while we profess to know God, we have denied him by our works. Titus 1:16(ESV)
8.2 The greater profession we have made of religion, the greater has been our sin.
We call ourselves after the holy city and stay ourselves on the God of Israel and confess his name, but not in truth and in righteousness. Isaiah 48:1-2(ESV) For we have dishonored that worthy name by which we have been called, James 2:23(ESV) and given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. 2 Samuel 12:14(ESV)
We have named the name of Christ, and yet have not departed from iniquity. 2 Timothy 2:19(ESV)
* The author means that we must look at our sins in the worst light, to see just how evil they are, taking into account the persons we have offended, the nature of the offense, the circumstances of our sin, etc. See The Westminster Larger Catechism, Questions 150 and 151. Editor.
Consider your Evil Sins in Light of the Mercies and Warnings of God
8.3 The more mercies we have received from God, the greater has been our sin.
You have reared and brought us up as children, but we have rebelled against you. Isaiah 1:2(ESV)
We have ill repaid you, O LORD, as foolish and senseless people: You are our Father who created us, who made us and established us, yet our mark has not been the mark of your children. Deuteronomy 32:5-6(KJV)
We have not made return according to the benefit done to us. 2 Chronicles 32:25(ESV)
8.4 The fairer warning we have had from the word of God and from our own consciences concerning our danger of sin and danger by sin, the greater is the sin if we go on in it.
We have been often reproved, and yet have stiffened our neck, Proverbs 29:1(ESV) and have gone on backsliding in the way of our own heart. Isaiah 57:17(ESV)
You have sent to us, saying, “Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!” But we have not listened or inclined our ear. Jeremiah 44:4-5(ESV)
The word of God has been to us precept upon precept and line upon line; Isaiah 28:13(ESV) and though we have looked intently at our natural faces in a mirror, yet we have gone away and at once forgotten what we were like. James 1:23-24(ESV)
Consider your Evil Sins in Light of the Corrections you have Received and the Vows you have Made
8.5 The greater afflictions we have been under for sin, the greater is the sin if we go on in it.
You have struck us down, but we have felt no anguish; we have refused to take correction and have made our faces harder than rock, Jeremiah 5:3(ESV) and the rod has not driven the folly out of our hearts. Proverbs 22:15(ESV)
You have disciplined us with the rod of men and with the stripes of the sons of men, 2 Samuel 7:14(ESV) yet we have not turned to him who struck us, nor have we inquired of the LORD of hosts. Isaiah 9:13(ESV)
When some have been overthrown as Sodom and Gomorrah were, we have been as brands plucked out of the burning; yet we have not returned to you, O LORD. Amos 4:11(ESV) And when your hand has been lifted up, we have not seen it. Isaiah 26:11(ESV)
8.6 The more vows and promises we have made of better obedience, the greater has been our sin.
We have not kept the terms of the covenant that we have made before you; Jeremiah 34:18(ESV) but as traitors, we have betrayed. Isaiah 24:16(ESV)
Did we not say, “We would not transgress, Jeremiah 2:20(KJV) we would not offend anymore?” Job 34:31(ESV) We did, and yet we have returned with the dog to its own vomit; 2 Peter 2:22(ESV) we have returned to folly after God has spoken peace. Psalm 85:8(ESV)
9. Understand the Condemning Nature of your Sin
We must judge and condemn ourselves for our sins, and own ourselves liable to punishment.
And now, O our God, what shall we say after this, for we have forsaken your commandments? Ezra 9:10(ESV) We have sinned; what have we done to you, you watcher of mankind? Job 7:20(ESV)
We know that the law curses everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law and do them; Galatians 3:10(ESV) that the wages of every sin is death; Romans 6:23(ESV) and that for these things’ sake the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Ephesians 5:6(ESV)
And we are accountable to God; Romans 3:19(ESV) the Scripture has imprisoned us under sin; Galatians 3:22(ESV) and therefore you might justly be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape. Ezra 9:14(ESV)
If you should make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line, Isaiah 28:17(ESV) you might justly separate us to all evil, according to all the curses of the covenant, and blot out our names from under heaven. Deuteronomy 29:20(ESV)
You might justly swear in your wrath that we should never enter your rest; Psalm 95:11(ESV) might justly strip us naked and bare, Hosea 2:3(ESV) and take back our grain in its time, Hosea 2:9(ESV) and put into our hands the cup of staggering, and make us drink even to the dregs of that cup. Isaiah 51:17(ESV)
You have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. Nehemiah 9:33(ESV) Indeed, our God has punished us less than our iniquities deserved. Ezra 9:13(ESV)
You therefore shall be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment; Psalm 51:4(ESV) and we will accept of the punishment of our iniquity, Leviticus 26:43(ESV) and humble ourselves under your mighty hand, 1 Peter 5:6(ESV) and say, “The LORD is righteous.” 2 Chronicles 12:6(ESV)
Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Lamentations 3:39(ESV) No, we will bear the indignation of the LORD, because we have sinned against him. Micah 7:9(ESV)
10. Give Glory to God for His Patience and Willingness to be Reconciled
We must give to God the glory of his patience and long-suffering towards us and his willingness to be reconciled.
O the riches of the patience and forbearance of God! Romans 2:4(ESV) How patient he is toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9(ESV)
You have not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us according to our iniquities, Psalm 103:10(ESV) but you wait to be gracious to us. Isaiah 30:18(ESV)
Sentence against our evil deeds has not been executed speedily, Ecclesiastes 8:11(ESV) but you have given us time to repent and make our peace with you, Revelation 2:21(ESV) and call even faithless sons to return to you, and have promised to heal our faithlessness; and therefore, behold, we come to you, for you are the LORD our God. Jeremiah 3:22(ESV)
Surely the patience of our Lord is counted as salvation; 2 Peter 3:15(ESV) and if the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not now have shown us such things as these. Judges 13:23(ESV)
And O that this kindness of God might lead us to repentance! Romans 2:4(ESV) For though we have broken faith with our God, yet now there is hope for us in Israel in spite of this. Ezra 10:2(ESV)
You have said it and have confirmed it with an oath, that you have no pleasure in the death of sinners, but rather desire that we should turn and live. Ezekiel 33:11(ESV) Therefore will we rend our hearts, and not our garments, and return to the LORD our God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him? Joel 2:13-14(ESV)
11. Humbly Profess your Sorrow and Shame for Sin
We must humbly profess our sorrow and shame for sin, and humbly engage ourselves in the strength of divine grace, that we will be better and do better for the future.
Lord, we repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, Matthew 3:2(ESV) to which you have exalted your Son, Christ Jesus, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:31(ESV)
We have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now our eyes see you; therefore we despise ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes; Job 42:5-6(ESV) therefore will we be like doves of the valleys, each one moaning over his iniquities. Ezekiel 7:16(ESV)
O that our heads were waters, and our eyes fountains of tears, that we might weep day and night for our transgressions, Jeremiah 9:1(ESV) and might in such a manner sow in those tears as that at last we may reap in shouts of joy; may now go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, and may in due time come home with shouts of joy, bringing in our sheaves with us. Psalm 126:5-6(ESV)
Our iniquities have gone over our heads; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for us; Psalm 38:4(ESV) but weary and heavy laden under this burden, we come to Christ, who has promised that in him we shall find rest for our souls. Matthew 11:28(ESV)
O knowing the affliction of our own hearts, 1 Kings 8:38(ESV) may we look on him whom we have pierced, and may we mourn and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10(ESV) That we may grieve after a godly sort, with that grief which produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret; 2 Corinthians 7:10(ESV) and that we may remember and be confounded, and never open our mouths again because of our shame, when you have atoned for us for all that we have done. Ezekiel 16:63(ESV)
And, O that we may bear fruit in keeping with repentance! Matthew 3:8(ESV) and may never again turn back to folly; Psalm 85:8(ESV) for what have we to do anymore with idols? Hosea 14:8(ESV) For sin will have no dominion over us, since we are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14(ESV)
We have gone astray like lost sheep; seek your servants, for we do not forget your commandments. Psalm 119:176(ESV)