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CONCERNING THE FORGIVENESS OF INJURIES
“Then came Peter, and said to Him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times; but, until seventy times seven.”—MATT, xviii. 21, 22.
This would seem to be plain enough, even though we had nothing more from the lips of Jesus concerning the duty of forgiveness. In point of fact, however, the lesson of these words is repeated a full half-dozen times throughout the Gospels. It may be well, therefore, to begin by bringing together our Lord’s sayings on the subject.
We turn first to the Sermon on the Mount: “Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.” Then, in the Lord’s Prayer we have the familiar petition, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.” And it is surely a fact full of significance that at the close of the prayer our Lord should single out this one petition from the rest with this emphatic comment: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” The words quoted thus far are taken from the first Gospel. Similar teaching is found in the second and third. Thus, in Mark, we read: “And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses;” and in Luke: “If thy brother sin, rebuke him, and if he repent, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in the day, and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Again, we have the teaching recorded by Matthew, out of which Peter’s question sprang—“If thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone; if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother”—followed by the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, with its solemn warning of inimitable doom: “So shall also My heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.” And, finally, all these words are made fast for ever in the minds and consciences of men, by the great act on the Cross when the dying Redeemer prayed for the men who slew Him: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”