« السابقةمتابعة »
is easy to conceive how persons of the most exemplary conversation and highest attainments in the church, or body, of Christ may have been tempted early like others, and like others also fallen under a new condemnation, if the Lord should "be extreme, to mark what is done amiss:" (Ps. cxxx. 3:) and therefore, as the best men that are can neither forgive themselves "the sins and offences of their youth," (Ib. xxv. 6,) nor ። say before the angel, that (their vow) was an error," (Eccles. v. 6,) nor renew themselves by any means, nor atone for the past by such renewal if they were equal to it, such men, I say, observing also in themselves as well as in others, (Would to God, that others could observe it as well as they!) a CONTINUAL NEED OF FORGIVENESS—may delight especially in the clause of the Lord's Prayer that asks it so pertinently and with his authority, being as constant as the day, and as instant as any worldly adventurers in the use of it. At the same time we are to remember, that the said clause does not relate only to the forgiveness that we always require, which is its principal object or scope; but to that likewise which may be occasionally required of us as its condition or accompaniment. And hence there are properly two species of forgiveness to be considered under this clause; which being taken and denominated from their respective subjects, the forgiving, or those who have the privilege to forgive, will be 1, Divine Forgiveness; 2. Human.
1. In speaking of the first mentioned, Divine Forgiveness, I shall not consider it now, as I might, in the relation of a subjective or divine accident of the Kingdom; but of an incidental property on the opposite side, and as a mercy accruing to the subjects of the said Kingdom of God in Christ from the exercise of his royal prerogative; observing accordingly 1, some Properties or peculiarities of the subject, namely of divine forgiveness; 2, the Accident or Process-Thus, for example,
1, In divine forgiveness we observe such Properties as
these; 1, its paramount and irreversible Authority; 2, its Freedom and Secrecy; 3, its divine Limitation or Prescription; 4, Impartiality.
-1, The first property of divine forgiveness, as well as of condemnation, and quite peculiar to be considered is, its paramount and irreversible Authority. No power on earth whether temporal or spiritual, nor in Heaven either, has any weight whatever against that authority-its extent, and duration; neither could all the powers on earth, or above the earth, or under the earth either call forth or prevent by their merit or otherwise for those for whom God has determined it either the blessing of forgiveness or the opposite infliction to which that authority relates. "When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? And when he hideth his face, who then can behold him, whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only?" (Job xxxiv. 29.) For it is conceivable how whole communities, or nations so composed, might have fallen and been caught up again, or restored-as well as cut down, either in the lump or by a man at a time, the first mode of restoration not being unfrequent in the early ages of the church through the blessing that was on the apostles' preaching and prayers; as St. Paul writes to the Christian or recovered community at Rome: who had been, as he tells them, the servants of sin, and consequently free from righteousness. "What fruit had ye then (says he) in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now, being made free from sin, and become the servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." (Rom. vi. 21, 22.)
-2, The second property of divine forgiveness which I mentioned is just as peculiar as the first, consisting in its absolute Freedom and Secrecy. For as no man can possibly order or purchase such forgiveness, so neither can he positively keep it; neither can he always know when he enjoys it; still less, when it is sealed to him, if it ever should be
-irreversibly, so that it might not be said to him by the Lord as it was to another whom we read of, "I said indeed, that thy house and the house of thy father should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." (Sam. I. ii. 30.) Hope indeed we may, that we enjoy the blessing of divine forgiveness, and be light hearted enough in a general way on this account; but we must not presume. A valuable consideration has been paid by another for our redemption; but freedom recovered may be lost again, as well as a first time; and not be again recovered. Other properties allied to these should also be remembered; as for example
-3, A third resulting from the universal and absolute sovereignty of our Almighty Judge and shewn sometimes in this dispensation of forgiveness, as well as (very fortunately for us) in that of pains and penalties: which is the property of Limitation. For as he does not punish, so neither does he pardon-universally and to the same extent, whether in regard to object or duration. "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy:" (Rom. ix. 15:) by which we are to understand, that he will only have mercy as he likes, whatever any one may think. "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? (says the apostle) shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" (Ib. 20.) For not punishing and having mercy are two things, and very opposite sometimes, as many a spoiled child may know to his cost: and we read in the epistle to the Hebrews, "If ye be without chastisement whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons;" (Heb. xii. 8;) which we should not like to be. And as the Judge will have mercy on whom he will, so will he direct its application and duration in the manner he may think fit: he will have mercy on either the animal or intellectual part of him on whom he will have mercy, and not on the
other; either being more than he deserves perhaps ;-much more when our heavenly Father deigns to have mercy upon both and he will have mercy on these also either for a time, or for ever. "God be merciful unto us and bless us: and shew us the light of his countenance, and be merciful unto us" (Ps. lxvii. 1) entirely, and both now and for ever; for his dear son, Jesus Christ's sake, Amen.
--4, Another property that we should expect to find in divine forgiveness is strict Impartiality; and that notwithstanding the election. For however God may be pleased to favour some men before others, he cannot be expected to favour any to the prejudice of others, God himself can never do any wrong; neither can he owe any thing to any man: but we have as many obligations to others, as others to us; we have offended others by word and deed, no doubt, frequently, and more frequently by injurious thoughts and suspicions, which are equally visible with any thing that we can do to the Great Searcher of Hearts; and before he means to forgive all this, he will expect, that we make what compensation we can to those against whom we have trespassed, as well as forgive those who have trespassed against us. We can know but little of God, it will be a very vain expectation, if we think to be forgiven by him so far as he is concerned, only on forgiving a few of his creatures, while we stand indebted to more, while we carelessly, needlessly, and unfeelingly leave a number of sores unhealed, of debts unpaid, or even due alms neglected. God is just to all in his generosity; and it were an excellent rule for us, TO BE JUST BEfore we are gENEROUS. We may guess the mind of the Lord hereupon by his going to dine with one of this character. "Zaccheus make haste and come down, (said he-that was from the sycamore tree) for to-day I must abide at thy house." And when some whose righteousness was more speculative than the publican's, began to murmur at the Master's choice, "saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner,-Zaccheus
stood, (being a little man) and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation I restore fourfold." (Luke xix. 5, &c.) The moral of this little history is excellent, like its divinity,-shewing that God is just to all men at the same time that he is particularly kind to some, and will not forgive any man his debts and trespasses while he is wilfully wronging and defrauding his neighbours. These several properties of divine forgiveness are as much of the same as the accident is itself," bone of its bones, and flesh of its flesh," its inseparable character, in short; as every accident must have some character or other. Therefore,
2, To speak next of the Accident or Process of such forgiveness as far as may suffice for the present,-it being necessary to revert to the same topic by and by under another head, and another text. I must also remark its greatest peculiarity-consisting in the double part, effect, or operation-required, to make the same complete, and such as we should intend in our prayer for it, when we say, "Forgive us our trespasses;" one of these parts being preparatory in a manner, or at least preliminary, to the other; the first equivalent with pardon, the second with absolution, and both preparatory to reformation; one meaning to acquit us of the penalties to which we are liable, the other of the sins by which they are incurred, that we may begin a new life, free of apprehension and incumbrance as far as regards the past. The effect therefore of these two parts or proceedings will be mutual in respect of each other, and that of either equally indispensable to their common purpose: so that without pardon there can be no absolution, and without absolution no effectual pardon and acceptance in Christ; as he told St. Peter, "If I wash thee not thou hast no part with me." (John xiii. 8.) And though all men are pardoned for Christ's sake simply on putting on Christ in baptism for all their sins before committed and duly repented; yet all are not washed or ab