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“BE YB KIND ONE TO ANOTHER, TENDER-HEARTED, FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER.”
OST precious of all the gifts which the disciple of Christ is permitted and commissioned to bear to his fellow-creatures is
the cup of forgiveness ; not the remission of his sins; for none can forgive sins but God alone.
; To this the humble disciple makes no pretensions, satisfied to bear to the repentant or unrepentant soul the glad news of a sacrifice made, and pardon offered by a crucified Redeemer.
But the forgiveness of injuries — of the wrongs, insults, unkindnesses, and persecutions to which he is continually exposed in a selfish and wicked world is the plain duty and the peculiar privilege of the Christian ; while, for our pattern, we have the example of our pitying heavenly Father and his dying Son.
The exercise of forgiveness lifts us nearer to the side of Jesus than any other grace. Meekness, pa
tience, gentleness, tenderness, are, in comparison, mere negative virtues. There is in forgiveness a positiveness of character, a force, an aggressiveness, denied to all the rest.
It is most difficult in practice. Few seem to apprehend its full import. Multitudes of God's children there are, who, failing to study intimately his dealings with his creatures, fail also to perceive the hight and depth, the length and breadth, of this glorious characteristic. Or if, perchance, they do get a glimpse of the beautiful reality, they find not in themselves the stretch and power of love by which they may reach and grasp it. “We can forgive,” they say, “ but can not forget.” God forgets. Has he not said, “I will forgive their iniquity, I will remember their sins no more”? and, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”? Forgetting is the noblest and purest and most precious ingredient in this godlike attribute.
The cup of forgiveness can not be obtruded or forced upon our enemies. Circumstances may preclude all possibility of our ever presenting it. Our enemy may die, and give no token of repentance, or, living, may afford no opportunity for us to manifest our forgiveness and good will. He may avoid us pur
posely and continuously; he may persist in his persecutions and injuries. They that hate us wrongfully may be multiplied, and by their power or malice keep us at a distance. It is not when we will, but when God wills, that we may offer this cup; but it must be always ready, fresh, full, and sparkling with the golden light of heaven. God will see, and his peace will for ever rest upon, the heart where it hides and waits.
The spirit of forgiveness covers not only personal injuries, but offenses of a more general character. In some sense, all violations of law and order are personal to the Christian. In so far as he sympathizes with the great Ruler of the universe, the Lord and Father of all; in so far as he desires the law of God to be carried out, and his will done on earth as it is in heaven, — in just that degree will his heart be pained by all trangressions of right, and all rebellion against the divine rule, which is "holy and just and good.” And in the measure that he feels these offenses is he required to forgive.
Remission of sin, absolute forgiveness, is not the prerogative of man, but of God only. Yet standing by the side of Jesus, entering by the divine and mysterious union, which is the privilege of the believer,
into the heart of Christ, we may imbibe his spirit, and be enabled to pray for his enemies, which are ours likewise, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
This is the glorious, the exalted, the usually incomprehensible spirit of true charity, which hates the sin, and yet loves the sinner; which abhors evil, and yet tenderly pities the evil-doer; the spirit that can weep over the fallen brother or sister, and stoop to the lowest depths of shame and darkness to lift them up.
There is no faculty of the human soul so persistent and universal as that of hatred. There are hatreds of race, hatreds of sect, social and personal hatreds. If thoughts of hatred were thunder and lightning, there would be a storm over the whole earth all the year round. Twenty people can not be together but some one suffers from their conversation. Let a man come into the company, who, from some cause, is obnoxious to them, and no sooner does he depart than the ill-smelling flowers of hatred swell their buds, and give forth their malign influences through the room. Towards many people we live in a state of negative dislike, which requires only a spark to kindle into a