WE must thoroughly believe and understand that, what seems to be a limiting condition of this request, is really an enlargement of its scope or power. For each man says within himself, "Upon me lies a burden, which I cannot shift upon any other human creature--the burden of duties unfulfilled, of words unspoken, or spoken "violently and untruly, of holy relationships neglected, of days wasted for ever, of evil thoughts once cherished, which are ever appearing now as fresh, as when they were first admitted into the heart, of talents cast away, of affections in myself, or in others, trifled with, of light within turned to darkness." Things come back with a fearful distinctness; the very act of which conscience testifies, every circumstance, look, tone, clearly recorded. It is no dream of the night. The voice, be it from Heaven or Hell, is a real one, which says, "It is done, and cannot be undone," and "Thou art the man." What signifies it that years have passed away? The act is gone, but thou art still the same. The act is gone into eternity, and there it will meet thee.
We ask to be forgiven, and the revelation of God's Mercy in Christ, of the Love which is in Himself, of the perfect atonement made once for all, is an answer. It seems to be only transitory. We try to fall back upon it, and feel that that which we trusted in yesterday is not so strong to-day. Why? Because we asked too little,--because we did not enter into the fulness of the word "remit," "send away," our sins. If we had, we should have prayed, not for a momentary sense of forgiveness, but for the spirit of forgiveness;--not merely that we may know what God is, and is to us, but what He can accomplish in us;--that we may understand in Him, and show forth in ourselves, that mercy, which is no tolerance of wrong, but the tormentor of it,--which does not reject stern discipline, but makes it an instrument,--which is a fire to consume the evil of all in whom it dwells, of all to whom it reaches. Forgiveness is not forgiveness, when it is turned to our ease and comfort. It is in its nature expansive, diffusive; it cannot be cooped up in the heart of any creature; it must go forth into the open ail', or it dies. God's forgiveness, free, large, absolute as it is, only reaches a man's heart, when it subdues his unbrotherly nature, and makes him forgiving. The debts, we know it well, cannot loose their penal hold upon the conscience, their present and future terror, till love comes in to fulfil them and transfer them; till the man, who in his pride thought all nations owed him homage, learns to say, "I am a debtor to Jew and Greek--to bond and free." The sense of sin, sin itself, does not finally depart from the conscience, till Love, its great enemy, possesses the ground which it once occupied--till he, who was crushed under the sense of powerlessness and evil, "To will is present with me, but how to do that, which I will, I find not," can exclaim, "He worketh in us to will and to do His good pleasure," and, "I can do all things through Christ, Which strengtheneth me."
Wherefore, as it should be one of our saddest confessions, that we have not lived as if we were under the law of forgiveness, which God has established for us and for all, so also let us earnestly believe, whenever we pray, that we are praying to a forgiving and merciful Father, who can yet do for us more than we ask or think, even inspiring us with His own Love, and enabling us to walk in Love, and to forgive all who are indebted to ns, as He for Christ's sake has forgiven us.--On the Lord's Prayer, Sermon VI.