Nowhere in Scripture, perhaps, have we such a lesson on the difficulty of forgiveness as in the reference to Alexander the coppersmith, in St. Paul’s last letter to Timothy. Even if we read his words in the modified and undoubtedly accurate form in which they are found in the Revised Version, we still feel how far short they come of the standard of Christ. “Paul,” says Dr. Whyte, “was put by Alexander to the last trial and sorest temptation of an apostolic and a sanctified heart." And with all the greatness of our regard for the great apostle, we dare not say that he came out of the trial wholly unscathed. Did ever any man come out of such a fire unhurt—any save One? Yet it is not for me to sit in judgment on St. Paul; only let us remember we have no warrant from God to hate any man and to hand him over to eternal judgment even though, like Alexander, he heap insult and injury, not only upon ourselves, but upon the cause and Church of Christ.
(3) And then to this native, inborn unwillingness to forgive there comes in to strengthen it our knowledge of the fact that forgiveness is sometimes mistaken for, and does, in fact, sometimes degenerate into, the moral weakness which slurs over a fault, and refuses to strike only because it dare not. Nevertheless, though there be counterfeits current, there is a reality; there is a forgiving spirit which has no kinship with cowardice or weakness or mere mushiness of character, but which is the offspring of strength and goodness and mercy, in short, of all in man that is likest God. And it is this not that which God bids us make our own; and not the less so because in the rough ways of the world that so often passes for this.