“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whosoever confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy” Proverbs 28:13. I like the “shalls” of the Bible, for they mean just what they say. Oh! That we might learn to take God at His word and know that when He says “shall” He means just that thing; nothing more and nothing less. A man says, “I shall do so and so,” but a hundred things may happen to prevent him carrying out his word, but not so with God, who says, “All power in heaven and in earth is given unto me.” So that there is no power greater to prevent God carrying out His word. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whosoever confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy.” So we have the word “Shall” occurring twice in this short text and they are both sure and certain of fulfillment. I want to call your attention to the first part of this text. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper.” No one can prosper in their professed Christian life as long as they are covering unconfessed sin. It is an utter impossibility for a Christian to prosper in his Christian life while covering up some sin which he has committed. It may be that you are the only one that knows anything about it except God; but that is enough; you cannot have peace and power as long as that sin is covered up.
Cannot Pray While Covering Sin
A man cannot pray who is covering up sin. Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.” And let me tell you, the psalmist knew what he was talking about when he uttered this truth. For more than a year David had tried to cover his sin which he committed when he took the wife of Uriah and committed adultery with her, and afterward had her husband slain. He tried to cover up his sin and the more he tried to cover it up, the larger it grew. And the psalmist who before had been able to come boldly into the presence of God and ask what he would and it was granted unto him, found that prayer was a hollow, vain thing. Doubtless he kept it up as a mere form, just like many people today. Though he never received any answer for over a year. Some of you who have been trusting in your prayers to save you while you at the same time are covering some sin in your life had just as well leave off your praying and save your breath to cool your tongue, which will be parched by the flames of hell, until you are willing to right your life. Some of you who are covering sin, just remember tonight when you get down on your knees to offer your prayer that until you make that wrong thing right by confession, that the whole thing is an abomination in the sight of God. Proverbs 28:9, “For he that turneth away his ear from the hearing of the law, even his prayer is abomination.”
Then there are a lot of other fellows that never seem to think of praying until they get sick and think that the undertaker is just about to come and measure their form for their casket. It is wonderful how brave a lot of men are while in health, and as soon as they are struck down they send for the preacher. That is all right, better send for him then than not at all, but I wonder why they don’t send for the devil to help them out. Did you ever hear of a man calling on the devil to help them out of trouble? Some of you fellows will be like a coward whom I heard of. He lived all his life in blasphemy and sin. Finally he was sent to the hospital for an operation for appendicitis. When the doctors were about to operate, he said: “I want you to send for the preacher.” What do you want with the preacher, we are all ready to operate and don’t want to be disturbed, and besides there is no time for delay.” “Well,” but he insisted, “I want a preacher.” “What for?” said the surgeons. “Well,” said the fellow, “I just thought I would like to be opened with a prayer.” Yes, a lot of you fellows will think of God and the preacher at a time like that; but I want to warn you that for some of you that will be too late. God says, “Come now and let us reason together.” The time to make your peace with God is when you have your senses about you, and not when your body is racked by pain and your brain delirious with fever.
Sin Makes Men Miserable
A man who is covering sin cannot enjoy his Christian life. Such a man is in constant misery just as David found himself the whole time he was covering his sin. Psalm 32:3–4 “when I kept silence,” that is when he was refusing to confess his sin; “When I kept silence my bones waxed old through my groaning all day long, for day and night was Thy hand heavy upon me, and my moisture turned into the drought of summer.” How changed David’s life had become since his sin of murder and adultery! He had committed a dreadful offense. He had murdered Uriah and taken Bathsheba to wife. He had kept his crime in his own breast, but his soul was troubled. As he looked into the skies that once declared the glory of God to him, he saw written “Murder!” The winds that whistled around his palace shrieked “Adultery!” In the watches of the night he saw in letters of fire on the dark walls of his chamber, “Uriah!” and when knelt in prayer, voices called to him from every dark corner of his closet, “Bathsheba!” In the temple the hosannas and hallelujahs of the great choirs had an undertone like a wail of sorrow that reminded him of his dreadful sin. When Nathan, the prophet, was sent of God to David to remind him of his sin, and when he was told by the prophet, “Thou are the man,” the iron enters into David’s soul; he sees himself stripped of purple, a sinner before God. Up the winding stairs he staggers to his closet of prayer on the housetop—the face of Uriah staring into his. He bows in his closet and from every nook and corner the filmed eyes of the dead Uriah are gazing at him there. Listen at the door as he prays, “Have mercy upon me, Oh, God, according to Thy loving kindness. According unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is ever before. Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.”
Sin Robs Men Of Power
One who is covering sin cannot win others to Christ. David learned this same great truth in connection with his covered sin. After he makes his great confession found in the fifty-first Psalm, saying, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, cleanse me from all sin, for I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight, that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest and clear when Thou judgest. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” I say after David makes all this confession of sin, and asks for a clean heart, then he says in the 13th verse, “Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways and sinners shall be converted into Thee.” David knew that he had been winning no one to God. There were no converts under his labor as long as that sin was covered up.
Message To The Unsaved
In the second place I want to call your attention to this text as it applies to those seeking salvation through Christ. No one can hope to find peace through believing on Christ as long as they are not willing to confess and forsake their sins.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. God does not hold a man out in the cold, refusing him salvation until he has put himself right in every particular, in some cases that might take months or years. Where there is a willingness to put one’s self right, God accepts the will for the deed until the thing can be done, and at once sends peace and a consciousness of forgiven sin. Men are lost not because they have sinned but because they refuse to confess and forsake it.
In a Montana town a man was converted and afterward came to my room and told me that he had stolen one thousand dollars. He said, “I am determined to pay every dollar of it.” He promised to write to his former employers making his confession at once, and promising to pay them every dollar. And as soon as there was a willingness to do this, he had the consciousness of forgiven sin, and became an active worker for the salvation of others. But there must be a willingness and a determination, God helping us to put ourselves right. God can never receive you as long as you are holding on to a single sin with the determination that you will not give it up. The most outbreaking sin in the world, repented of, shall be forgiven, but the least unrepented sin will sink the soul into the lowest hell.
Bearing A Grudge
It may be you have an unforgiving spirit. You say, “I cannot, and will not forgive.” Well, if that is your stand, my sinner friend, I can give you a passage of Scripture that absolutely locks the gates of heaven against you. Mark 11:25–26: “When ye stand praying forgive if ye have aught against any, that our Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses, but if ye do not forgive neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive you your trespasses.” First John 4:20, “If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen cannot love God whom he hath not seen.” You say, “Why is God so severe upon the one with an unforgiving spirit?” Simply because love is life and hate is death. The most miserable wretch in this world is the one who is carrying a grudge in his heart against his fellow man. It blots the sunshine from the face and clouds of darkest passion take its place.
It was a matter of wonderment for years to the medical profession why the milk from the breasts of the mother when in a rage of anger would throw the infant into convulsions. But it has been proven by chemical analysis that the milk at such time contains poisonous ingredients; while the milk when love sways the heart of the mother contains an equal proportion of health and life-giving ingredients. Is it any wonder then that the unforgiving spirit marks its victim until the lines of passion show in the face?
Professor Gates claims to have discovered more than forty injurious products which are produced in the blood by bad emotions such as envy, hatred, etc. The professor has not hesitated to affirm that the physical consequences and penalties of sin are thus demonstrated by chemical science. You can see this unforgiving spirit often in aisles of the church when some of the fussy church members meet, one suddenly becomes a geologist and the other an astronomer; yet they will come to church and sing, “Glory to God, I’m on my journey home.” “Well,” but you say, “Mr. Lowry, you don’t know how hard it is, she lied about me,” of, “he tried to injure my reputation.” Yes, some cases are trying, I know. There are always a few old gossipers around looking for “the latest,” and if there were no latest they would hatch up something that would blacken the character of an angel. Someone has said that there are three ways of spreading news, telegraph, telephone, tell a woman. (All gossipers are not women, though. The worst on Earth is one of these old he-gossipers).
Confess To Others
It may be you have wronged someone or someone has something against you. Then you must be willing to make it right. Matthew 5:23–24: “If, therefore, thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there remembers that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” And until you are willing to right yourselves with man as well as God you can never find peace through believing on Christ. The nearest way for some of you to mercy and salvation is around by your neighbor’s house. The one whom some of you find hardest to forgive is the one whom you have injured. You do not state the case in just that way, but nevertheless it is true. There is nothing that will more surely lead you to dislike another than the knowledge that you have in some way wronged him. You are all the while looking for something that will justify you for treatment you have given him.
It may be that you have something in your possession that does not rightfully belong to you. You may have cheated someone or stolen it from them. Well, then you must be willing to make restitution. A man stood up in a testimony meeting and said, “I am standing on the solid rock.” “You lie,” shouted another fellow, “you’re standing in those shoes you haven’t paid for.”
You can never hope to have peace until you are willing to square yourself with your fellow man. Mr. D.L. Moody said that in one of the greatest revivals in England there was a woman who was a regular attendant every night and was very much in earnest about her soul, but for some reason she could not find peace through believing. The truth was she was covering a sin which she was not willing to make right. At last the burden became so great she said to a worker, “I never go down on my knees to pray but a few bottles of wine keep coming up before my mind.” It appears that many years before, when she was a housekeeper, she had taken some bottles of wine belonging to her employer. Then the worker asked her why she did not make restitution. The woman replied that the man was dead and besides, she did not know how much it was worth. Then the worker asked if any of the heirs were living to whom she could make restitution. She said that there was a son living at a distance, but she thought that a very humiliating thing to do. So she kept back for some time. But at last she felt that she must have a clear conscience at any cost, so she took the train and went to the place where the son lived and paid him for the wine and returned, and Mr. Moody said he thought he had never seen a happier woman than she was.
My Own Experience
I had some experience along the line of restitution when I gave my life to God for Christian service. I had to pay a debt of 15 cents I had owed for 13 years. But one of the most humiliating things I ever had to do was to make restitution for a book I had stolen. While in Chicago preparing myself for Christian work, one day as I was praying in my room, suddenly a thought came to me, “There is a book in your trunk that does not belong to you.” When I left the service of the Rock Island Railway Co. as [a] telegraph operator, I took with me a letter copy book belonging to the company. It was new. I forgot all about having it in my possession. Then at once there began a conflict between the Holy Spirit and myself. I said, “Oh, Lord, that is such an insignificant matter—the railway company would never miss it.”
Well, I went on arguing the case with the Lord, trying to convince Him that it was all right to keep the book. But every time I got down to pray there was the book between me and God. Finally, determined to have peace at any cost, I started down through Chicago to the head offices of the Rock Island. I had looked up the officials in the folder and thought I had the right man to whom I could make restitution. I went in and made my confession. He said, “I’m not the man that attends to such matters, go over and see this fellow.” I went in and told my story, but he gave me about the same answer and sent me to another official. Maybe you think that was not a humiliating thing. But I went on until I found the right man to whom I could make restitution, and paid for the book, and came away rejoicing and with a great burden lifted. Oh, I can imagine some of you fellows saying, “Oh, Mr. Lowry, that is getting things down to too fine a point.” Well, sir, I want to say to you, if your profession of Christianity does not right your life in every detail it isn’t worth having.
I spoke on this text a few years ago in Spring Valley, Minnesota. As I was passing out of the hall a business man standing near the door reached out his hand and said, “Mr. Lowry, that sermon tonight cost me $40.” “Well,” I answered, “God bless you; get right.” The next day he squared himself by sending a draft to a wholesale house for $40.
In closing I want to call your attention to the remedy from the human point of view. “But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy.”
Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
You may be a minister behind the pulpit or the President of the United States, it matters not what your position in life is, you can never succeed as long as you cover sin. Adam tried it and failed; Moses tried it when he buried the Egyptian in the sand, but he failed. The best men for the last six thousand years have tried it and failed.
I appeal to you men and women—turn from your sins—forsake them today. Uncover every covered thing—make confession and restitution—get right with God. We will soon be in eternity. “ah,” says one, “I have never gone home drunk and beaten my wife and children.” Well, thank God for that. Another says, “never cheated anybody.” Good, I’m glad you haven’t. But what about your standing before God? Are you ready to meet Him? He reads your hearts as easily as I can read this book. Your life may appear all right before men—but God reads your very heart—are you right with God?
A Detective Story
In the city of Brooklyn a few years ago, a detective went into a drug store and laid his hand upon the shoulder of a moral man about thirty years of age and said, “You are wanted.” “What do you mean?” asked the man in great astonishment. “You know what I mean. You were in the Auburn penitentiary several years ago; you escaped and went West. You married out there and came back here and settled; and we have been on your track ever since. Now we have you. You need not deny it.” He said, “That is true, I will not deny it; but I would like to go home and say goodbye to my wife and child.” “All right.” They went to his home. He met his wife and child in the parlor and said, “Wife, haven’t I been a kind husband?” She said, “Yes, indeed.” “Haven’t I been a kind, affectionate father, and worked hard to make a living?” She replied, “Yes, but what do you mean?” “I mean that I am an escaped convict and must go back to the penitentiary. Since I met you, your love has made a different man out of me, but I must leave you now and go back to the penitentiary.” Then took place the sad parting scene as the child and mother clung to the husband and father. He was all right with his wife and child and neighbors, but all wrong with the state of New York. He being all right with his wife and his child didn’t put him right with the state of New York. So it is with you, my sinner friend, you may be all right with your friends and neighbors, wife and children, but are you all right with God? If you are wrong there you will be ruined forever.
It may cost you humiliation. It may cost you money. Never mind the cost; you cannot afford to be anything but right with God and man.
—A sermon preached by Rev. Oscar Lowry in the Big Tabernacle