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In order to come to a full knowledge of these words, we must first enquire in what extent they are to be understood; for in the same extent that we pray to be forgiven, it is our duty to forgive. Now when we pray to God to forgive us our trespasses, we do not only mean that he shall not punish us for them, but also that he should restore us to the same degree of love and favour that we stood in before we sinned, that he would extend the goodness of his Providence to us, and vouchsafe us both temporal and eternal blessings. Of what great importance it is to us to be thus restored to God's favour is obvious to any one; but there is one condition annexed to it which is to be feared does sometimes prevent men from attempting it, and this is the forgiveness of our enemies ; by which we are not to understand the mere abstaining
from hurting them, but also the seeking every opportunity to do them good.
We oughť according to our Saviour's command to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate
for them which despitefully use and perfecute us.
This is the description that our Saviour gives us of this duty, and the greatest objection against the practice of it arises from the vast difficulty that is supposed to attend it. Many have gone so far as to say it might be performed by an holy Apostle or perfect Saviour, but was without the reach of a common Christian; and indeed in our present circumstances, the corruption of our nature, the violence of our passions, and the mistaken notions of the world considered, it is of all Christian duties by far the most difficult to perform. But since God has made it the condition
upon which we are to expect forgiveness, it is absolutely necessary for us to perform it, before we can have any title to the promise; for as our Saviour affures us, if
ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.
If we consider in how much greater a degree we have offended against God, than it is possible for any one to offend against us, we shall soon see the reasonableness of performing the condition for the reward annexed to it. The hopes of having our sins pardoned, and obtaining eternal salvation should certainly appear of such value in our sight, as no labour however hard, no task however difficult should deter us from such great expectations, much less should
the reasonable duty of doing as we would be done - by, of forgiving others that we ourselves
may obtain forgiveness. If God is willing to remit to us a debt of so vast amount as ten thousand talents, shall we, with the wicked servant in the Gospel, rigorously exact from a fellow servant the payment of an hundred pence? Should not we also have compassion on our fellow servants even as God has pity on us?
There are many motives to enforce the forgiveness of injuries besides this, and one of these is, that it is an action truly great and honourable. Whatever advantages an high and revengeful spirit may have in the eyes of the world, and however mean it may be esteemed to put up and forgive injuries, Religion teaches us quite a different lesion. It instructs us that nothing can be truly honourable, which is not truly good, NA
that nothing can be truly good which is not agreeable to the will of God; and that nothing can be agreeable to the will of God which is contrary to the laws his blessed Son has given us in the Gospel; and these prescribe to us to be meek as he is meek, and lowly as he is lowly.
But to descend from Religion to the opinion of the world.
If there is any honour in gaining a victory, then is the forgiveness of injuries truly honourable. It places us in eminence above our enemy, it gives us an invinsible superiority over him, it makes us proof against all his devices, and unhurt by all his attacks; we either make him our friend, or convince mankind that he ought not to be our enemy; we either deprive him of the inclination to prejudice us, or subject him to the contempt of all good men if he perfeveres in it;