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presumption in a very strong light, by shewing, that the offences of men against each other, are trifling in comparison of their offences against the Deity. "One man
beareth hatred against another", says the Son of Sirach, not nicely perhaps discriminating the malevolent sentiments, but using words in a popular manner, "One man beareth hatred against another, and doth he seek pardon of the Lord ? He sheweth no mercy to a "man who is like himself; and doth he ask forgive66 ness of his own sins"? Eccles. xxviii. 3. 4.
St Matthew indeed does express himself as if, according to the literal sense of his words, every one who forgave others must be forgiven: "If ye forgive men "their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you"; Matt. vi. 14. but this can only mean, that if we Christians forgive each other, we shall be adopted or admitted into the Christian scheme or system of remission of sins; we shall not be incapable of forgiveness: still the Justice of God is to be satified; still the conditions remain to be fulfilled; the conditions of repentance and sincere endeavours of amendment. Otherwise, any careless, easy-tempered, indolent man, who did not concern himself whether injuries were punished or not, would have full licence to commit every sin incident to human nature. These conditions, are so plain, that though they are sometimes exprèssed, they are sometimes only implied, according to the course of a sentence. When St. Luke speaks of the Duty of forgiveness, he expresses the condition of repentance, but it is equally necessary when it is only implied. "If "thy brother trespass against thee; rebuke him; and "if he repent, forgive him; And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day "turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him", Luke xvii. 3. 4. It cannot then be doubted, that we must repent ere we can expect forgiveness from our heavenly Father.
The right idea of forgiveness in man, as promoting forgiveness in God, is, that it is an indispensible condition; that no one must entertain the least hopes of having the general declarations of mercy applied to him
self, till he has taken the previous step of forgiving his brethren. The manner in which St. Mark expresses himself, agrees well with the idea of a previous or preliminary step. "When ye stand, praying, forgive, if 66 ye have aught against any that your Father also "which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. "But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father "which is heaven forgive your trespasses". Mark xi. 25. 26. To which agrees the direction to leave a gift before the Altar, not offered, until reconciliation with men shall have been completed. Matt. v. 24.
And the artless expression of St. Matthew (vi. 14.) should be considered as the result of the Lord's Prayer; as an inference or deduction from it; which is signified by the illative "For." Now the Prayer does not intreat our heavenly Father to forgive us all our sins, past and future, if ever so wilful, if ever so little repented of, only on condition of our never inflicting punishment; no man has ever understood it in that sense; but it supposes us to be heartily sorry for our sins; the remembrance of them to be grievous unto us; the burden of them intolerable it supposes us earnestly desirous to rid ourselves of this burden, and ignorant of the manner of doing it. I am willing, each man is supposed to say, to shew all lenity to others, but how can I presume upon that, to think that God will forgive me the manifold sins which I have committed against his divine Majesty? In such a difficulty, it must be a great consolation and encouragement to be allowed to intreat the Almighty to shew that 'mercy to us, which we have shewn, and do constantly shew, to others. But it is by no means reasonable to infer from thence, that God will forgive us all manner of offences because we do our duty in a single point: or because we neglect to inflict punishment, merely through indolence or cowardice, or dissipation. Moreover, it is of the nature of every prayer, that in order to its success we do our parts: You pray to God for your daily bread; suppose God to grant your petition, yet will you have daily bread without any exertions of your own?
On the whole then, our forgiveness of those who
injure us, must be previous to our praying for forgiveness from heaven; but nevertheless, it is a matter of very great importance, that when we have taken this previous measure, we may offer it as a plea at the throne of the Divine mercy; and may found hopes upon it that we shall be admitted to the inestimable privileges of Christian Covenant.
44. As to the practical part of this subject, what has been said of yielding may easily be applied to forgiving. Forgiveness is a Duty, but a duty of the indeterminate sort: the different degrees in which it is to be practised, on different occasions, must depend upon circumstances. So far, indeed, forgiveness must always be perfect and entire, that we must always act from pure and unmixed benevolence; whether that prompt us to indulge, or to deter. When we are afraid of being overpowered by injury, we cannot have a better direction how to proceed, than that which we find in the New Testament. "If thy Brother shall "trespass against thee, go, and tell him his fault be"tween thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, "thou hast gained thy Brother. But if he will not hear "thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in "the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may "be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, "tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear the "Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and "a publican". (n) On which words I will only observe, at present, that they are by no means intended to supersede Christian Charity, and brotherly affection; and that where circumstances seem materially to have changed, our duty is, to use a parity of reasoning, and apply the same principles, as nearly as possible, to new situations.
45. We may now draw to a conclusion of our reflections on this extensive subject of Resentment; and we cannot finish them more properly than by asking ourselves what improvements appear to have been made in the regulation of Resentment by the Christian Religion. The improvements which it has occasioned in moralitý in general might afford scope for much discussion; (0)
but at present suffice it to remark, that man is certainly made capable of improving himself in virtue by reason and experience; but that in fact the most important duties have been very much undervalued; and are so still, except by some Christians. And that it is the nature of Christianity greatly to improve that Disposition upon which improvement in morals chiefly depends.
With regard to Resentment in particular; though we may not see the whole benefit which our Religion has produced, yet it may be pleasing and useful to take notice of some few advantages.
First.-Whatever sayings against revenge, or commendations of forgiveness, some heathens may have occasionly thrown out, there is no such agreement amongst them as to make an impression on the public mind, nor any such authority vested in any of them as to guide the generality of men independently of private judgment. The ordinary classes of men must, in a great measure, act after the opinions of others; and the Christian in ordinary life is relieved from all doubt as to the Duty in question:-if he complies with that which is prescribed in the Gospel, bis benevolent affections will be clogged by no perplexities, or opposite authorities. And those who are qualified to examine the grounds of their actions, will by the light of the Gospel be enabled to see the worth and excellence of that which is enjoined. Whereas, in any kind of life, to separate truth from falshood in the writings of Philosophers, requires that men should be wiser than Philosopers them
Secondly.-Were it allowed that any heathen Philosopher, or Orator, merits approbation, and does good, by recommending clemency and mildness; yet can it be said of any such person, that he has given the mild and placable class of virtues their due rank and value? has any moralist ever made them his principal object? yet Christians now know them to be of the highest inportance, as preventing long trains of mischief: as subDd
stituting in their place schemes of beneficence, as generating and nourishing kind affcetions, as giving the mind a taste for virtuous sentiments and moral enjoyments.
Thirdly. Although Jesus Christ taught what was excellent, and at the same time delivered what was revealed from Heaven, yet the ideas of following the authority of a teacher, and of being instructed by Revelation are distinct from each other. Now there is an opposition between Resentment and Benevolence, which seems to occasion uncommon difficulty; no human authority seems likely to surmount it. A very wise and good man might possibly temper them together, so as to gain the proper uses of both; but without Revelation it should seem as if most men would follow the impulse of either, as circumstances happened to give it strength and influence; the result of which would be, a motley incoherent conduct: denoting one character in prosperity and good health; and a very different one under affliction, oppression, or adversity. Nay, when the well-informed Christian acknowledges those principles which Revelation inculcates; when he makes Resentment to be only an instrument of correction in the hand of benevolence, yet there is still required great knowledge of mankind, as well as a considerable share of discretion, to make his acting after those principles produce its proper effects: his conduct, though founded on those principles, might want the guidance and encouragement, or support of Revelation.
Fourthly.-The practice of Virtue depends not only upon a right conception of its nature, but on the motives by which a man is actuated. Suppose Philosophy perfectly enlightened as to the nature of the Duty before us, yet it certainly could never propose such powerful motives as Christianity affords. The case or parable of the Servant-Debtor, Matt. xviii. 23. seems as if it must be irresistible, to every one who allowed it to operate freely upon his mind.
The idea that we are bought with a price, 1 Cor. vi. 20. must, if fully admitted, have a great tendency to