“Men mistake in thinking that the only confession is that made with the voice before magistrates; there is another confession made in the life and conversation, by faith and works corresponding to the faith. The first confession may be made by a hypocrite; and it is one not required of all; … the other confession must be made by all. He who has first confessed in his disposition of heart will confess with his voice also when need shall arise and reason require.” ~Heracleon
Confession to Men
To the more materialistic person, or at least the Atheist, “confession” either means something you do in a courtroom, or to your parents, or to your spouse. To many other, you also confess to your priest, minister, guru, or congregation. The first type of confession is for those who have violated the laws of man and, as Heracleon points out, one can easily lie when doing so. One of the strangest things to me is when people will confess to crimes they didn’t actually commit in order to get publicity, but there are many more cases where the guilty will lie and claim innocence. It is often not quite so easy for a child to lie to his parents. They often develop a knack for recognizing when you are lying, or simply hiding something. And then there are the ego-boosting “confessions” that few people fall for: “Yes Jenny and I made out in the park last night,” or “Don’t listen to the experts, I’m worth $10 billion, not three.” The second confession is different.
Confession to God
Some people, even many who believe in God, think that if they don’t confess to God, He won’t know what they did. They miss the point. God really doesn’t need to know every little thing each of us does. He has created a system with built in checks and balances that do it for Him. Whether yo call it Karma, the Golden Rule, or some other name, the fact is we pay for our “sins”, even though we are often unaware of the process. When we do something, both good and bad, it is reflected back to us (We would probably have far less crime if someone did a study on how many crooks get robbed in some way, how many rapists get sexual disfunction, etc.)
So what Heracleon is saying is that it isn’t necessary to confess verbally all of our bad deeds to God, He really doesn’t want to hear it, and doesn’t need to. You could say that confession to God is automatic, if you wish, but God really doesn’t pay attention to those confessions as He has built in Karma to deal with it. So then why bother to confess to God at All?
The real reason to confess to God is not so much to inform Him of what you did as it is to inform Him, and yourself, that you now recognize that what you did was wrong. It is this saying “I was wrong” that God wants to hear, not a list of the deeds done which have already been dealt with (or soon will be) via karma. It is to inform God, as well as your inner self, that you are going to make a concerted effort to do better in the future. It is a confession to cleanse yourself, not to inform God of that which He already knows.
Illustration: “Job Confessing His Presumption to God Who Answers from the Whirlwind” by W. Blake