Having considered the many and numerous failures in serving the Lord, in his Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar then lists 14 specific sins that we must confess:
Let us, as they did, deal honestly with ourselves. Our confessions ought to be no less ample and searching.
We have been unfaithful. The fear of man and the love of his applause have often made us afraid. We have been unfaithful to our own souls, to our flocks, and to our brethren; unfaithful in the pulpit, in visiting, in discipline, in the church. In the discharge of every one of the duties of our stewardship there has been grievous unfaithfulness. Instead of the special particularization of the sin reproved, there has been the vague allusion. Instead of the bold reproof, there has been the timid hint. Instead of the uncompromising condemnation, there has been the feeble disapproval. Instead of the unswerving consistency of a holy life whose uniform tenor should be a protest against the world and a rebuke of sin, there has been such an amount of unfaithfulness in our walk and conversation, in our daily deportment and intercourses with others, that any degree of faithfulness we have been enabled to manifest on the Lord’s Day is almost neutralized by the want of circumspection which our weekday life exhibits.
Few men ever lived a life so busy and so devoted to God as Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh. His learning, habits of business, station, friends, all contributed to keep his hands every moment full; and then his was a soul that seemed continually to hear a voice saying, “redeem the time, for the days are evil.” Early, too, did he begin, for at ten years of age he was hopefully converted by a sermon preached on Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.” He was a painstaking, laborious preacher of the Word for fifty-five years.
Yet hear him on his death-bed! How he clings to Christ’s righteousness alone, and sees in himself, even after such a life, only sin and want. The last words he was heard to utter were about one o’clock in the afternoon, and these words were uttered in a loud voice: “But, Lord, in special forgive me my sins of omission.” It was omissions, says his biographer, he begged forgiveness of with his most fervent last breath—he who was never known to omit an hour, but who employed the shred ends of his life for his great Lord and Master! The very day he took his last sickness, he rose up from writing one of his great works and went out to visit a sick woman, to whom he spoke so fitly and fully that you would have taken him to have spoken of heaven before he came there. Yet this man was oppressed with a sense of his omissions!
Reader, what think you of yourself—your undone duties, your unimproved hours, times of prayer omitted, your shrinking from unpleasant work and putting it on others, your being content to sit under your vine and fig tree without using all efforts for the souls of others? “Lord, in special forgive me my sins of omission!”
Hear the confession of Edwards, in regard both to personal and ministerial sins: “Often I have had very affecting views of my own sinfulness and vileness; very frequently to such a degree as to hold me in a kind of loud weeping, sometimes for a considerable time together, so that I have often been forced to shut myself up. I have had a vastly greater sense of my own wickedness, and the badness of my heart, than ever I had before my conversion. My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, swallowing up all thought and imagination. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. When I look into my heart and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell. And yet it seems to me that my conviction of sin is exceedingly small and faint: it is enough to amaze me that I have no more sense of my sin. I have greatly longed of late for a broken heart, and to lie low before God.”