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p155 Dear Miss Jesse Williams, - The Lord is graciously doing what was and is always needed, making you know yourself. We may often accept the gospel not insincerely, and yet not have the least learnt what we are, that is what sin is in the flesh. As regards confession (James 5:16) - the form this distress takes with you - I agree with -, it is not a command imposed, but a means afforded for walking fully in the light, a relief if I cannot get rid of something that presses on my conscience; nay, even if I have done from time to time what keeps my spirit fretful, and out of communion, it is given as a means of relief, in order to my spirit's being conscious of being in the truth, to find some one worthy of such confidence, and opening the matter to them. It is a relief to open the heart, only not to be done with levity, but in the true sense of the evil, and gives occasion to the other to pray for us. This is connected with the government of God, and has nothing to do with deliverance. Its true character is lost if we look on it as an imposed obligation; but we make what is called a clean breast of it, and all sense of guile and false appearance is taken away. Sometimes the desire to confess is a mere effort to get the mind at ease without a thorough dealing with God which goes to the root.

Romans 5:1 is simply forgiveness, faith that Christ has been delivered for our offences. If that be so, God must despise Christ's work before He imputes sin to me: and not only is that impossible, but God has given proof to the contrary in raising Him from the dead, and setting Him as man in glory: and He has not got my sins there. The work God has wrought in Christ has blotted out my sins: the Lord imputes no sin. Then comes another source of distress, even if I am clear that believing in Jesus I am justified from all things. I find my old man, my flesh, produces the evil fruit still; and this perplexes the mind if it has learned forgiveness, and brings doubts and deep distress where it has not. It is always in its nature legal - that is, refers God's estimate of us, to what we are: namely, His thoughts towards us are dependent on our state before Him; whereas our state depends on His thoughts. See the prodigal when he found his father. (Compare Num. 23:23.)

Now our peace as to our sins is simply that they are forgiven and put away: Christ has borne them. If I believe in Him, God has declared this; I am "justified from all things." But for the discovery of our sinful state and getting deliverance there is an experimental process in us. The doctrine is that we died with Christ: that is Romans 6. But the resting on the truth found there as a doctrine, is connected with the experience found in chapter 7, the result then being in chapter 8. Now this experience is the painful learning that we have no strength to make good what we would in what is right. There is a point in this experience which often helps, but is not deliverance; that is, hating the evil which yet works in me, it is not I, for I hate the evil, and I am not what I hate. But after this I find what I hate too strong for me, and I am brought to the consciousness of my being without strength, the point to which God was leading me by it all: "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."

Your anxiety about confession and distress of soul will all disappear, when you have the deliverance which follows this full breaking down. We are conscious then of being in Christ, as Romans 8:1; and then Christ is in us as the power of life (vers. 2, 3): Christ is substituted for self before God for us as righteousness. What am I before God? Christ. And He having died and risen again and received by faith, lives in us: and the flesh is treated as not me but sin that dwells in us, and we have by the Holy Ghost the sense of being children. In a word, Christ is substituted for self before God, and yet as livingly in us - "as he is so are we in this world." This is God's teaching; it belongs to every one who believes in Christ, but we do not get it experimentally, till the self for which Christ is substituted is thoroughly judged and broken down - no good in it, and no means of getting into a better state however much we desire it. And this is the process you are going through, with a pretty strong will to be broken by it. I add, it is of moment in this conflict to avoid all evil - not that this will give us peace; that comes from being dead with Christ; but if we are not watchful it gives a handle to the enemy.

Christ came to save the lost, and we must get to see we are lost as to our state in order to get deliverance: yet in the grace that came to save us when such, God knows when self is really judged, and then gives peace. In yourself in the flesh you are lost, but we get out of this standing through being dead with Christ. The sin in our flesh was judged on the cross. We hear nothing more of the prodigal son, once he found his father: all is what his father was to him.