The noted preacher Dr. F.E. Marsh once preached a sermon on the importance of confession of sin and wherever possible the restitution for wrong done to others. At the close of the service one of his church members came to him with a troubled conscience. “Pastor,” he said, “you have put me in a sad fix. I have wronged someone and am ashamed to confess it or try to put it right. You see, I am a boat builder and the man I work for is an infidel. I have talked to him often about his need of Christ and urged him to come and hear you preach, but he scoffs and ridicules it all. Lately, though, I’ve become guilty of something that, if I should acknowledge it to him, will ruin my testimony forever.”
The church member then went on to explain that sometime ago he had started building a boat for himself in his own yard. He had needed to use copper nails for the job because such nails don’t rust in water. Copper nails are expensive, however, and so he had been carrying home large quantities of them from work. He had rationalized the stealing by telling himself that his employer wasn’t paying him a large enough salary and that the employer had so many nails that he wouldn’t miss them anyway. That reasoning had kept the fellow’s conscience reasonably appeased until Dr. Marsh’s sermon.
Dr. Marsh, of course, counseled the church member to go to the employer, confess the stealing, and make the theft right. But the man just couldn’t bring himself to do it. In his mind, such a thing would simply be too embarrassing. So, weeks passed, and with each new week the fellow’s guilt only increased. Finally, it got to be too much for him and he broke. He went and confessed all to the employer and offered to pay for the nails.
And how did the employer respond to the confession and offer? He said, “George, I always did think you were just a hypocrite, but now I begin to feel there’s something to this Christianity after all. Any religion that would make a dishonest workman come back and confess that he had been stealing copper nails and offer to settle for them must be worth having.”
And now, Christian, I’ve got just one question for you: Have you got any “copper nails” in your life that call for some confession and restitution on your part? If you do, you’d be well advised to confront the issue head on. Until you do, any sense of inner peace you have will be a false one. Remember, you can’t be wrong with men and right with God.