The Character of True Christian Forgiveness

Luke 17:3,4; Matthew 18:21,22
      Take heed to yourselves: 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.
      Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): “Lord,” saith Peter, “how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” This he thought a mighty deal, a very high pitch of perfection. Our Saviour tells him, till seventy times seven times, that is, infinitely, and without stint: yet He alludes to Peter’s seven, and, as it were, derides it, and his rashness in setting bounds to this duty.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): It does not look well for us to keep count of the offences done against us by our brethren. There is something of ill-nature in scoring up the injuries we forgive, as if we would allow ourselves to be revenged when the measure is full. God keeps an account, Deuteronomy 32:34, because He is the Judge, and vengeance is His; but we must not, lest we be found stepping into His throne.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): But it seems hard that Christians should be obliged to forgive another his private wrongs so often as he doth them, if he will go on without end multiplying affronts and injuries to us.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): First, let us enquire what this Christian forgiveness is. And that the nature of it may the better appear, I shall you both what it is not, and what it is.
      First, it consists not in a Stoical insensibility of wrongs and injuries. God hath not made men as insensible, stupid blocks that have no sense of feeling of what is done to them―nay, the more deep and tender our resentments of wrongs and injuries are, the more excellent is our forgiveness of them…Secondly, Christian forgiveness is not a concealment of our wrath and revenge, because it will be a reproach to discover it; or because we want an opportunity to vent it. This is carnal policy, not Christian meekness. So far from being the mark of a gracious spirit, that it is apparently the sign of a vile nature.
      Nor is Christian forgiveness that moral virtue, for which we are beholden to an easier and better [disposition], and the help of moral rules and documents. There are certain virtues that are attainable without the change of nature―such as temperance, patience, justice etc. These are of singular use to conserve peace and order in the world: and without them, the world would soon break up, and its civil societies disband. But yet, though these are the ornaments of nature, they do not argue the change of nature―and lastly, Christian forgiveness is not an injurious giving up of our rights and properties to the lust of every one that hath a mind to invade them.
      But then, positively, Christian forgiveness is a Christian lenity, or gentleness of mind, not retaining, but freely passing by the injuries done to us, in obedience to the command of God.

JOHN TRAPP: This happens when my brother returneth and saith, It repents me. But what if he does not? In forgiving an offender, say divines, there are three things:
                                     1. The letting fall all wrath and desire of revenge.
                                     2. A solemn profession of forgiveness.
                                     3. Re-acceptance into former familiarity.
      The first must be done however―if you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice, forgive him lest there be two bad men―For the second, if he say, I repent, I must say, I remit, Luke 17:4. To the third, a man is bound till satisfaction be given.

MATTHEW POOLE: We must therefore know, that our Saviour by this precept doth not oblige any to take his enemy into his bosom, and make him his intimate or confidant again; but only to lay aside all malice, all thoughts and desires of revenge towards him, to put on a charitable frame of spirit towards him, so as to be ready to do him any common offices of friendship. Thus far we are obliged to forgive those that do us injuries, so often as they stand in need of forgiveness.

JOHN FLAVEL: This gracious lenity inclines the Christian to pass by injuries, as neither to retain them revengefully in the mind, or requite them when we have opportunity with the hand: yea, and that freely, not by constraint, because we cannot avenge ourselves, but willingly. We abhor to do it when we can. So that as a carnal heart thinks revenge its glory, the gracious heart is content that forgiveness should be his glory―it is his glory to pass over transgression, Proverbs 19:11. And this it does in obedience to the command of God―“Be ye kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you,” Ephesians 4:32. This is Christian forgiveness.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Because he lives upon much forgiveness, he will be ready to forgive.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): It is certainly the will of God, that we should forgive one another all trespasses and offences. The examples of God and Christ should lead and engage unto it; the pardon of sin received by ourselves from the hands of God strongly enforces it; the peace and comfort of communion in public ordinances require it; the reverse is contrary to the spirit and character of Christians, is very displeasing to our heavenly Father, greatly unlike to Christ, and grieving to the Spirit of God.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Forgive, and forget. When you bury a mad dog, don’t leave his tail above the ground―those who say they will forgive but can’t forget, simply bury the hatchet but leave the handle out for immediate use.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): Pride nourishes the remembrance of injuries: humility forgets as well as forgives them.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): This requires to be the more diligently observed, because, commonly, the greater part weakly conclude that they forgive offences if they do not retaliate them; as if indeed we were not taking revenge when we withdraw our hands from giving help.

THOMAS FULLER (1608-1661): If God should have no more mercy on us than we have charity one to another, what would become of us?

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): I once heard Rowland Hill repeat the Lord’s prayer, and witnessed the great effect produced when he said, “Forgive us our trespasses,” by making a considerable pause before he added, “as we forgive them that trespass against us;” as if he almost feared to utter it, lest he should condemn himself and others.


This entry was posted in Sanctification & Holiness and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.