“Divine Forgiveness Admired and Imitated”
MTP, May 1885 Sermon number 1841
Taken from Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia 7:401, 402, 405, 406.
When He forgives He forgives the whole of our faults, follies, failures, and offenses. There is a certain solidarity about sin, so that it makes up one lump. I read the other day of a certain theologian speaking of Christ having put away original sin while He left actual sin. Nonsense! Sin is one and indivisible. Iniquity is not to be done up in separate parcels. The sin, the iniquity of men, is spoken of in the Bible as one thing. Although we sin multitudes of times the various streams all flow into one sea of evil, when sin is forgiven all sin is put away, not a shred, nor fragment, nor particle remains. The Lord Jesus drowns all the hosts of sin in the depths of the sea, and the whole of our guilt is swallowed up forever. This is great forgiveness, indeed. Glory be to Him who gives it! Let us follow Him in His truth and heartiness. This forgiveness, again, is given by the Lord Jesus Christ in the completest possible manner. He keeps no back reckonings; He retains no reserves of anger. He so forgives that He forgets. That is the wonder of it, He says, “I will not remember your sins.” He casts them behind His back; they are wholly and completely gone from His observation or regard. Alas, such is poor human nature, that even fathers, when they have forgiven a wayward child, will, perhaps, throw the offense in his teeth years after, when he again offends, but it is never so with Christ. He says, “Your sins shall not be mentioned against you any more forever.” He has done with the sins of His people in so effectual a way that not a whisper concerning them shall ever come from His mouth so as to grieve them. They will themselves remember their sins with deep repentance, but the Lord will never challenge them on account of their past rebellions. Blessed be the name of Christ for such complete forgiveness as this. The Lord Jesus Christ forgives His people in a continuous manner. He forgave us long ago, He still forgives us. He does not forgive and afterwards accuse, His forgiveness is eternal; it is not a reprieve He gives to you, believing ones, but a free pardon, under the King’s hand and seal, which shall effectually protect you from accusation and punishment. “In those days, and in that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.” He has finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness. Send to hell a pardoned sinner! It is a contradiction to the very nature of God. Condemn those for whom Jesus died! Why, the apostle mentions that death as a conclusive answer to the challenge, “Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” How shall He intercede for us and yet accuse us? It is impossible for Christ to be both Redeemer and Condemner to the same persons. So perfect is His pardon that our sin has ceased to be, He has put away sin forever by the sacrifice of Himself.
In urging you to this copying of Christ, let me notice that this forgiveness of those who offend against us is gloriously ennobling. We are not asked to perform a duty which will in the least degrade us. Revenge is paltry, forgiveness is great-minded. Was not David infinitely greater than Saul, when he spared his life in the cave, and when he would not smite him as he lay asleep on the battlefield? Did not the king humble himself before David when he perceived David’s forbearance? If you would be the greatest among men, bear injuries with the greatest gentleness; if you would win the noblest of conquests, subdue yourself. To win a battle is a little thing if it is fought out with sword and gun, but to win it in God’s way, with no weapons but love, and patience, and forgiveness, this is the most glorious of victories. Blessed is that man who is more than a conqueror, because he inflicts no wounds in the conflict, but overcomes evil with good. In the process of such a conquest the warrior is himself a gainer. A nation in fighting, even if it wins the campaign, has to suffer great expense and loss of life, but he that overcomes by love, is the better and stronger man through what he has done. He comes out of the conflict not only victor over his adversary, but victor over sin within himself, and all the readier for future war against evil. He glorifies God and himself becomes strong in grace. Nothing is more glorious than love. Your Master, who is King of kings, set you an example of gaining glory by enduring wrong, if you would be knights of His company, imitate His graciousness.
Notice that this imitation of Christ is logically appropriate to you all. Brothers and sisters, if Christ has forgiven you, the parable we read just now shows that it is imperative that you should forgive your fellows. If our Lord has forgiven us our ten thousand talents, how can we take our brother by the throat for the hundred pence, and say, “Pay me what you owe”? If we are indeed members of Christ, should we not be like our Head? If we profess to be His servants, are we to pretend to a dignity greater than our Master, who washed His disciples’ feet? If He forgave so freely, how dare we call ourselves His brethren if our spirit is hard and malice lingers within us?
I say, to conclude, that this copying of Christ is most forcibly sustained by the example given in the text. We are to forbear and to forgive. “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.” I have heard it said, “If you pass by every wanton offense, and take no notice of it, you will come to be despised, and regarded as a person of mean spirit, your honor demands vindication.” When Christ forgave you, did His honor suffer by that forgiveness? You transgressed most wickedly, and yet He forgave you, do you regard Him as less honorable because of that readiness to pass by offenses? Far from it, it is His glory to forgive. The hallelujahs of saints and the songs of angels are sent up to His throne the more heartily because of the richness of His grace, and the freeness of His mercy. Dishonor indeed! What pride it is on the part of such poor creatures as we are to talk about our honor! Where is the honor of revenge? It is a dishonorable thing to put yourself on the level of him who injures you. A heathen philosopher used to say, “If an ass kicks you, is it necessary for the maintenance of your honor to kick that ass again?” That speech looks like a noble one, but yet it is too much flavored with contempt. When you speak, or even think, of another who has wronged you as though he were only worthy to be regarded as a beast, you are not right in spirit, a degree of evil remains in your heart. Think of the offender without contempt, as well as without resentment. Believe that he is a brother worth winning. Say, “If he does me an injury, for that very reason I will do him a double service. My only vengeance shall be double love. I will not allow myself to even think harshly of him. I will put the best possible construction on all that he does, and thus show that the spirit of Christ is in me, conquering the spirit of fallen humanity both in me and in him.”