Along the way, growing up, I encountered various people who believed or taught that in order to have your sins forgiven you had to confess each sin specifically. I saw this cause trouble in a number of lives. Even though, at the time, I was not prepared to argue against the idea, I did not â€œbuyâ€ it because it just seemed impossible. Of course nothing is new, and I recently came across a section in Calvinâ€™s Institutes where he dealt with this very issue. His pastoral answer is quite helpful.
â€œBut it is utterly unbearable that they lay down a law on the recounting of all sins, that they deny that sin is forgiven except upon the condition that an intent to confess has been firmly conceived, and that they prate that no entrance to paradise would remain if the office of confession were neglected.
Are all sins to be recounted? Now David, who in himself had, I believe, rightly pondered confession of sins, exclaimed: â€œWho will understand errors?Â Cleanse thou me from my secret errors, O Lordâ€ [Ps. 19:12 p.].Â And in another place: â€œMy iniquities have gone over my head, and like a heavy burden they burden me beyond my strengthâ€ [Ps. 38:4; cf. Ps. 37:5, Vg.].Â He understood only too well how deep is the pit of our sins, how many are the faces of crime, how many heads this hydra bore, and what a long tail it dragged along.Â Therefore, he did not catalogue them.Â But from the depths of his evil deeds he cried out to the Lord: I am overwhelmed, I am buried, I am choked, â€œthe gates of hell have encompassed meâ€ [Ps. 18:6; cf. Ps. 17:6, Vg.], I am sunk down into the deep pit [Ps. 69:2-3, 15-16], may thy hand draw me out, weak and dying.Â Who would now think of reckoning up his sins when he sees that David cannot begin to number his? . . . . For experience convinces each one that, when we have at evening to examine the transgressions of only a single day, the memory is confused; so great is the multitude and variety of them that press upon us!â€ 641-642
â€œOver against such lies I put freely given remission of sins; nothing is more clearly set forth in Scriptureâ€ (651).