"When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long"
There is nothing that so takes the joy out of life like unconfessed sin on the
I once heard the late Dr. F.E. Marsh tell that on one occasion he was preaching on this
question and urging upon his hearers the importance of confession of sin and wherever
possible of restitution for wrong done to others.
At the close a young man, a member of the church, came up to him with a troubled
countenance. "Pastor," he explained, "you have put me in a sad fix. I have
wronged another and I am ashamed to confess it or to 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. Now, I have been guilty of something that, if I should acknowledge it to him, will
ruin my testimony forever."
He then went on to say that sometime ago he started to build a boat for himself in his
own yard. In this work copper nails are used because they do not rust in the water. These
nails are quite expensive and the young man had been carrying home quantities of them to
use on the job. He knew it was stealing, but he tried to salve his conscience be telling
himself that the master had so many he would never miss them and besides he was not being
paid all that he thought he deserved. But this sermon had brought him to face the fact
that he was just a common thief, for whose dishonest actions there was no excuse.
"But," said he, "I cannot go to my boss and tell him what I have done or
offer to pay for those I have used and return the rest. If I do he will think I am just a
hypocrite. And yet those copper nails are digging into my conscience and I know I shall
never have peace until I put this matter right."
For weeks the struggle went on. Then one night he came to Dr. Marsh and exclaimed,
"Pastor, I've settled for the copper nails and my conscience is relieved at
"What happened when you confessed to your employer what you had done?" asked
"Oh," he answered, "he looked queerly at me, then exclaimed, 'George, I
always did think you were just a hypocrite, but now I begin to feel there's something in
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
Dr. Marsh asked if he might use the story, and was granted permission.
Sometime afterwards, he told it in another city. The next day a lady came up and said,
"Doctor, I have had 'copper nails' on my conscience too." "Why, surely, you
are not a boat builder!" "No, but I am a book-lover and I have stolen a number
of books from a friend of mine who gets far more that I could ever afford. I decided last
night I must get rid of the 'copper nails,' so I took them all back to her today and
confessed my sin. I can't tell you how relieved I am. She forgave me, and God has forgiven
me. I am so thankful the 'copper mails' are not digging into my conscience any more."
I have told this story many times and almost invariably people have come to me
afterwards telling of "copper nails" in one form or another that they had to get
rid of. On one occasion, I told it at a High School chapel service. The next day the
principal saw me and said, "As a result of that 'copper nails' story, ever so many
stolen fountain pens and other things have been returned to their rightful owners."
Reformation and restitution do not save. But where one is truly repentant and has come
to God in sincere confession, he will want to the best of his ability to put things right
H.A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth,
1945, Moody Press, p. 104-106.
After F.E. Marsh preached on this subject, a young man came to him and said,
"Pastor, you have put me in a bad fix. I've stolen from my employer, and
I'm ashamed to tell him about it. You see, I'm a boat builder, and the man I
work for is an unbeliever. I have often talked to him about Christ, but he only
laughs at me. In my work, expensive copper nails are used because they won't
rust in water. I've been taking some of them home for a boat I am building in my
backyard. I'm afraid if I tell my boss what I've done and offer to pay for them,
he'll think I'm a hypocrite, and I'll never be able to reach him for Christ.
Yet, my conscience is bothered."
Later when the man saw the preacher again, he exclaimed, "Pastor, I've settled that matter and I'm so relieved."
"What happened when you told your boss?" asked the minister. "Oh, he
looked at me intently and said, 'George, I've always thought you were a hypocrite, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe there's
something to your Christianity after all. Any religion that makes a man admit he's been stealing a few copper nails and offer
to settle for them must be worth having.'"
Our Daily Bread.
A lady in the north of England said that every time she got down before God to pray, five bottles of wine came up before her mind.
She had taken them wrongfully one time when she was a housekeeper, and had not been able to pray since. She was
advised to make restitution.
"But the person is dead," she said.
"Are not some of the heirs living?"
"Yes, a son."
"Then go to that son and pay him back."
"Well," she said, "I want to see the face of God, but I could not
think of doing a thing like that. My reputation is at stake." She went away, and came back the next day to ask if it would not
do just as well to put that money in the treasury of the Lord.
"No," she was told, "God doesn't want any stolen money. The only
thing is to make restitution."
She carried that burden for several days, but finally went into the country, saw that son, made a full confession and offered him
a five-pound note. He said he didn't want the money, but she finally persuaded him to take it, and came back with a joy and
peace that made her face radiant. She became a magnificent worker for souls, and led many into the light.
My dear friends, get these stumbling stones out of the way. God does not want a man to shout "Hallelujah" who doesn't pay his
debts. Many of our prayer meetings are killed by men trying to pray who cannot pray because their lives are not right. Sin
builds up a great wall between us and God. A man may stand high in the community and may be a member of some church "in good
standing," but the question is, how does he stand in the sight of God? If there is anything wrong in you life, make it right.
Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 49-50.