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we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us : but if we confess our sins he is faithful and just (1) to forgive us our sins, and (2) to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (John I. i. 8, 9.) And thus it is that we would hope to be forgiven when we pray our heavenly Father to “ forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." But it may be questioned at the same time, whether the sort of divine forgiveness now described will come within the meaning of the petition as it is worded; seeing the particle “As” will have two different meanings, comparative and inferential; one praying, that we may be forgiven similarly or in the same manner as we forgive others; the other in consideration of our forgiving, or inasmuch as we forgive-them. For one or the other of these two meanings *, which are both justified by the different texts of St. Matthew and St. Luke, would seem to contradict almost every property of the subject; as you may perceive by considering and comparing with it
2. The second or human species of forgiveness before mentioned; in which we find several properties of the divine wanting; as
mentioned distinction might be quoted from our liturgy; as that in the col. lect for the twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity; where the said distinction occurs in a prayer for the extension of our deliverance, or the effect of abso lution, equally with that of our pardon, namely to all Christians. For ex: ample, “ Absolve thy people from their offences ; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins which by our FRAILTY we have committed.” (These, actual sins and innate frailty or actual and original sin are two mighty antagonists to combat at once for the sake of the people: yet by being instant in season, out of season; reproving, rebuking, exhorting with all long suffering and doctrine" (Tim. II. iv. 2) a poor curate, with his Master's blessing, may sometimes be fortunate enough to promote the part of absolution;-And if the higher powers pretend to pardon sins he will not. For to his mind this part is the beginning of forgiveness, as above described, and a pure effort of God's mercy through Christ, determined before it could be solicited.)
• The use or omission of the comma before as in the text may serve te indicate the distinction.
1, The Amplitude of forgiveness over punishment, or of “ the free gift” over the offence before noted:
2, A second deficiency occurs in the paramount and irreversible authority with which the divine forgiveness is exercised: while that of man, let his authority be what it will for a man, is never independent of the changes and chances only of this mortal life; to say nothing of the immortal which this glides into, and in which it is contained. Thus a king may forgive us from prudence or clemency one day, and the next one of our own rank may smite us under the fifth rib, as Joab smote Abner. (Sam. II. iii. 27.). Or a king may forgive one of his servants an immense debt, as it may be to-day, and very justly deliver him to the tormentor himself for the same, “ till he should pay all that was due unto him” (Matt. xviii. 34) only to-morrow'; because our shortsightedness and frequent misinformation makes it necessary that all human sentences should be reversible, at least by the authority that enacts them; and not like the very inconvenient “law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not;" (Dan. vi. 8 ;) as it is said in Daniel. And a curious predicament it must have been truly for Nebuchadnezzar, “ a king of kings,” (Ib. ii. 37,) not to be able to forgive such a faithful and favourite subject as the prophet the crime of being also an honest “ servant of the living God:” who however, it appears, was pleased to forgive him a breach of that unalterable law, and to reward him handsomely for rather observing his. For earthly kings are subject like other men on earth both to outward circumstances and to inward motives, (unfortunately for their subjects sometimes,) to which he who creates both cannot of course be subject ever. And as to future forgiveness; if no king is able to help himself at all in that matter otherwise than others may, it is not to be supposed that he can otherwise help them. But
3, When I state the incompetency of a crowned head, or of one with three crowns, to forgive any subject of his in respect of futurity, (and no prince can forgive the sub
jects of another only in respect of the present,) I allude to the divine privilege of pardon chiefly: for as to the other part of forgiveness, by absolution I mean ; it would not become one who prays to God continually, “ That it may please thee, to bless and keep the magistrates, giving them grace to execute justice, and to maintain truth,—"to doubt, that the chief of them should with God's grace and such opportunities as the people have afforded him for the purpose by God's direction-be able to operate very effectually thereto in behalf of those who are previously pardoned by God. But still with so many exceptions it must be evident, that we do not mean for God to forgive us in all respects, SIMILARLY as we forgive others; though in some respects he might; as for example, in the trait of impartiality before mentioned; also,
4, As God may expect of those who owe him more than they can pay, or who have clearly trespassed against him ; to acknowledge their debts and delinquencies as far as they are known; and farther—to the very extent of probability, so may we do toward men, when the case is very clear in a question of forgiveness. We have the right to expect such a commuted reparation before we forgive them ; as upon that being made we must, and upon the same consideration also upon which alone we can expect to be forgiven by God; which is the name or interest of his Son, Jesus Christ; as he tells his particular disciples “ That whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name he may give it you.” (John xv. 16.) “ For every one that asketh receiveth :” (Matt. vii. 8 :) and sometimes it seems even those who ill deserve it, and upon their simple request; as his lord told that wicked servant in the parable, “ () thou wicked servant; (said he) I forgare thee all that debt, because thou desirest me.” (Ib. xviii. 32.)
It is not to be expected of one of us that he should forgive another such debts as might be paid conveniently, or encourage continual trespasses and outrages by a system of impunity. It is not required that one should encourage every knave to pick one's pockets, or to assist an enemy while he is plotting one's destruction; there is nothing so extravagant in the Lord's Prayer, nor in the whole of the Christian institution ; it may be enough to forgive what is irremediable, and when known to be so. Do not take offenee at your neighbour without mentioning it, and cherish a grudge that may be as unjust as its concealment were needless and ridiculous : but have a fair explanation with him, if he deserve it: and though he be ever so guilty, if he repent-forgive him. “And if he trespass against thee seven times a day, and seren times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke xvii. 3, 4.)
5, Therefore at the same time that we venture to ask forgiveness at the throne of grace, we state immediately as a qualification of such request, that we ourselves have no resentment lurking in our breasts, and hope our heavenly Father will be pleased to “forgive us our trespasses, (inasmuch) as we forgive them that trespass against us." It is not that we propose our example as a pattern for the Almighty : ever far from our thoughts be such a flagrant token of vanity and impiety! or, that it should be supposed, that because we forgive others, he is bound to forgive us. It is not by any rule of precedent, example or necessity that we venture to assume so much ; but from his word, and from an understanding of his will by Jesus Christ, to forgive men partly on this consideration; as (to give an example) other matters being as they should, ap important property or estate might be held at a nominal rent. And we know and are satisfied, that with the omniscient Judge, “ unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid,” there is no chance of forgiveness for any of us, “ if we from our hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matt. xviii. 35.) For if a certain temper be required for the enjoyment of grace to do right when we have it, and even for the enjoyment of our corporeal food; a similar
qualification will be indispensable likewise to the enjoyment of the divine forgiveness which is freely derived to us through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ; if such qualification be but the worth of a peppercorn, including among other items that of MUTUAL FORGIVENESS.
Such appears to be the Christian doctrine of forgiveness in both parts; namely in respect both of pardon and absolution ; also on both sides, or on the side of God and man; the former of which has been entitled divine forgiveness and the latter human: confession and reparation as far as possible being mentioned as a primary condition of both. But there are many proud offenders, I believe, who would as soon be hanged almost, as confess and ask forgiveness of any whom they may have injured or defrauded: so much the worse for them. “And why? (says the Psalmist;) God is the judge.” (Ps. lxxv. 8.) Therefore,“ avenge not yourselves; but rather give place unto wrath,” (Rom. xii. 19,) says St. Paul. “ For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God," (Jam. i. 20,) says St. James. “God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his wickedness.” (Ps. lxviii. 21.) Thenthat is when God hath so humbled him, “ if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.” (Rom. xii. 20.) For that thou mayest then perhaps, without hurting thyself.
Only by asking forgiveness in relation to God we go through one preliminary to every grace, as before signified, and the slightest degree of atonement for trespasses that can be made or conceived. And beside that, it is a part that every ingenuous person would wish to submit to in respect of an equal whom he had disobliged, whether he were a benefactor or not; how much more in respect of one universal Benefactor, “our almighty and most merciful Father;" whose bounties we enjoy daily, and daily abuse! Every day therefore when you have done wrong, it is best to repent: and when you have so far