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if at the same time we neither want ourselves, nor be so indifferent to the wants of others, that we cannot make any reasonable sacrifice or exertion in respect of their necessities, we may find therein a welcome evidence, that we are favoured beyond many: and if we farther feel a becoming appetite for the knowledge and enjoyment of Him who gives us such appetite, we may consider ourselves still more favoured; as being some among those who have the privilege of addressing Him sincerely as their Father in Heaven with the beloved Son, and in the same petition: hoping still to receive from him some farther assurance of his favour in the grace to do not only more good, but less evil; a part to be also considered hereafter in its turn; God willing.
To whom, &c.
ON THE LORD'S PRAYER.-5. TRESPASS, PENALTIES, FORGIVENESS.
"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.'
In this clause of the Lord's Prayer we have its second human petition, or the second of those petitions which relate more immediately to their subject, the petitioner. And herein the analogy between the Lord's Prayer and the ten commandments is again more particularly observed; the second of the human commandments, which is the sixth of the ten, being a prohibition, namely, a prohibition against murder, as the effect of this clause is a deprecation, and that of retaliation too, being no uncommon cause of murder with men. So they are both negative propositions, and at the same time have one common
tendency: another example of the coincidence that I have thought worth noticing in the two most remarkable documents, and what should be the most useful, that were ever written or committed to memory; though some of those who do not view the subject in this important light may think such notice too minute.
The clause of forgiveness coming after the clause for giving in this divine composition is also agreeable to custom, or the way of speaking, as well as to precedent, in that we say, To give and forgive, To bear and forbear; (an excellent practice ;) mentioning the positive accident first, and then the negative answering thereto; though in reason and equity here, as in every case of petitioning an offended party, we should ask forgiveness first, and any favour that we may stand in need of afterward. So the divine Author of the petition himself likewise teaches by a corresponding injunction to mankind on another occasion; placing forgiveness first of the two parts or accidents, according to its proper and more equitable position: as for example, "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." (Luke vi. 37, 38.) And hence-that is from the specimen I have now given, it would appear, as if the coincidence between the Lord's Prayer and the ten commandments before alluded to was rather intentional. But how that may be is not so material to the understanding and effect of the clause, as a due consideration of the several parts implied therein which I take to be three; 1, Trespass; 2, Penalties; 3, Forgiveness. It is most usual, and may be thought most technical or lawyerlike to include only two parts in the doctrine, namely the two first mentioned, trespass and penalties: I do not like however to omit the third myself, which concerns forgiveness, but to notice that especially; and when you shall have heard what is to
be said for it, perhaps you may remain of my opinion, and be glad that I did not leave it out.
§ 1. But in approaching the subject of Trespass the first of the three to be proposed, and the effects of which are deprecated in the first article of my text, "Forgive us our trespasses," I observe our other version reading Debts in the first article for trespasses; both together thus, "And forgive us our debts; as we forgive our debtors.” (Mat. vi. 12.) And as these two relations of debts, and sins or trespasses, appear to have a common origin or foundation, it may be a means of reconciling the two versions as well as elucidating the subject, if I endeavour to deduce this unpleasant relation from its beginning.
There is then among the different relations of life one that would not be unpleasant any more than one of its subjects, if it could be kept within bounds: but as living things, or the subjects of life may become troublesome, and very troublesome, both to themselves and others by excess, or by disproportion, which is partial excess, so may their relations; and when this happens, the subjects of such relations will be driven to straits for a remedy sometimes, making these relations very unpleasant to their subjects perhaps on both sides. Of such relations as these, which may not be naturally unpleasant, but become so by excess partly, the chief and most comprehensive is Duty: and that, whatever may be its object; whether it be generally God above, or man in any specific relation here below. For naturally there is nothing unpleasant in duty, the same being naturally mutual, like the mutual support which irrational and also inanimate subjects afford to each other but when our duty amounts to debt, which is its first degree of excess, and like growing on one side, then it will frequently begin to be troublesome; much more, if it should run on another degree, and be stamped with the mark of Trespass. Every debt will suppose some law, and also bargain or compact to which it is accountable.
And there is also a wide difference among debts: some of them being not unpleasant, as before implied, any more than duty-likewise some of them useful, and some indispensable. The debt of common acquaintance, or of being able to call our neighbours by name, is not unpleasant; and no more than the first man did at first. (Gen. ii. 19.) The debt of love, esteem, and gratitude is delightful, that of the courtesy and mutual subjection which all men owe to one another is not to be deprecated; no more is the general debt that we owe to God for all his goodness and loving kindness to ourselves and others in the blessings of this mortal life, much more in the blessed means and expectations by which we are raised to the enjoyment of a better; being an eternal obligation, or one that can never be effaced. Of the same kind, namely indispensable, because it can never be acquitted, is the debt that we owe to our earthly parents, not only for bringing us into the world, but for giving us bread when we were very small, and taking care of us till we were able to shift for ourselves with the help of divine Providence. But when debts that need not be perpetual like these, but may and ought to be paid, begin to exceed our means or assets, they ought also to be troublesome; however they may happen to have been incurred: and more so according to their degree of excess and other circumstances. The easiest degree of debt, which is that incurred by mischance, most frequently however is that which troubles its subject most; debt incurred by vanity and indiscretion less, and the most infamous species which is incurred with a fraudulent purpose least of all, till it comes to be rewarded in the fraudulent debtor.
Leaving therefore such debtors as these to reconcile their present gains with their future expectations, we should consider how it happens that our greatest, and as I shewed before, absolutely incompensable debts, being some that we owe to our heavenly Father in the first place, and next-to our heavenly parents, neither do nor
ought to trouble us like others of less account, unless they should happen to be aggravated by ingratitude or some other particular unworthiness; and that will lead us to perceive another troublesome cause beside excess, which is found in that aggravation-bringing such debts within the degree of Trespass; which according to the scripturemeaning is very extensive. Thus St. John in his first epistle signifies that "all unrighteousness is sin," or trespass; if all unrighteousness be not "sin unto death," or damnation: (John I. v. 17:) consequently ingratitude is sin in the scripture account or estimation, though it may not when alone be a sin unto death."
It should therefore be observed, that trespass too has its degrees and aggravations as well as debt: but differently in the law of the Kingdom from what it may have in common law; as I have explained before now*. For while both species acknowledge, that any trespass may be aggravated by prepense malice and a disposition to trepass evinced in former acts-being so far agreed on its beginning, they will differ with regard to the end; one accounting the civil, the other the spiritual effect of an injury most considerable in aggravation: and I am not ashamed, as a piece of a Kingdom-lawyer myself, to own myself of the latter opinion, namely, that the effect of a real spiritual injury is more considerable than that of a civil,— though some may account it bigotry in me, to think so. It may be said, Every one in his own way, or Every one for his master and profession. You, as an advocate of the internal Kingdom, naturally mind its peace more than that of the external; as an advocate of the future, you naturally prefer its interests and concerns to those of the present. Who blames you for that? Moreover, you serve Christ, and we-the queen. Here is one of her majesty's unoffending subjects, who has been cruelly knocked about and half murdered by a malicious ruffian;
• In Christian Modes, Vol. II. p. 121, &c.