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Every consideration of justice and equity SERM,
XVIII. is on the side of forgiveness : there is no man but who must be conscious of his own frailty, and of the need in which himself stands of remission of offences: sometimes, perhaps, he has been injurious to his fellow-creature, and certainly often rebellious against his Creator ; let him then exert an indulgence, which he expects—let him forgive, as he hopes to be forgiven, Why should he look, in his own case, for the allowance which he is not willing to grant in the case of others? How dare he presume that his own frailties will be passed by, while himself is extreme to mark what is done amiss? It is in vain that he alleges greatness of provocation, or height of ingratitude; he is not the proper judge; whilst he is under the dominion of his resentment, he ought to sus, pect that it is not probable he should be just; he may feel more, perhaps, of the
SERM. injury than was intended, his self-love may
represent it to him in aggravated colours; what was possibly merely the effect of 'mistake or negligence, he may attribute to design; he is encompassed indeed on every side with error, which he can only hope to escape by subduing his resentment,
But, grant that you have been indeed provokingly treated and heinously wronged, are you to give up the government of your temper, and to yield yourself a prey to the torments of rage, because your enemy has been" unjust ? are you to en: danger your eternal salvation, because your friend has been ungrateful ? Alas! this is to revenge the faults of others on yourself; it is to swell the bulk, and increase the acrimony, of their offences; it is to confer on them a fatal importance, which they could receive from none but yourself. · The utmost that the malice of man can do affects only the body-extends
not beyond this world; it is ourselves alone SERM.
XVIII. that can cast both body and soul into hell, . You remember the treatment of the servant in the parable, who, after having received from his lord a generous forgiveness of a large debt, went and used the utmost severity against one of his fellowşervants, who owed him a small debt. “O thou wicked servant (said his lord) "I forgave thee that debt because thou “ desiredst me: shouldest not thou also “ have had compassion on thy fellow,
, "servant, even as I had pity on thee? “ And the lord was wroth, and delivered “ him to the tormentors, till he should “. pay all that was due unto him.” Precisely in the same case stands the unmerciful, unforgiving man. If God were extreme to mark what is done amiss, which of us should live another day, to be offended or to offend ? He created us, he preserves: us, and he redeemed us; yet we are
SERM. constantly injuring--perpetually provoking
him. Of what ingratitude towards us can our earthly brother be guilty, in comparison of what we are guilty towards our heavenly Father!
Let us beware, then, lest by our own rigours we create a precedent against ourselves. “ With what judgment we judge, " we shall be judged; with what measure " we mete, it shall be measured to us “ again.” When we are inclined to be unforgiving, let us remember the menace to which we expose ourselves : after our Sa. viour had related to his disciples the severity which was exercised against the unmerciful servant, he immediately added “ So likewise shall your heavenly Father “ do unto you, if ye from your hearts for
give not everyone his brother their " trespasses.
If example have any sway with us, all that there is of great or good in the uni.
verse is on the side of mercy and forgive- SERM.
XVIII. ness. Though his majesty be so daringly violated, though his commands be so rebelliously disobeyed, though we are continually provoking him by our insults and iniquities, yet is the Great Governor of heaven and earth slow to anger, and eager to forgive; time, warning, assistance to repent and regain his favour, are all amply bestowed on ungrateful man. “ God de " sireth not the death of a sinner, but “ rather that he should turn from his « wickedness and live.” Hostile as he is to every species of iniquity, and boundless as is his power to punish it, his most fa. vourite title is—the Father of Mercies. If we look to the conduct of the Son of God, the virtue of forgiveness is also eminently conspicuous; his whole life indeed was one continued instance of it: in return for reproaches he bestowed instruction, in return for personal insults he put up peti.