Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
"the pardon of any offense committed against us. We are not apt to entertain any permanent or incurable ill will against the author of injuries to others, and why should we be irreconcilable when injuries have been done to ourselves? To love our enemies, or rather not to hate our enemies, is a duty which no guilt can annul, no injury efface. We are not required to love our enemies as our friends; but, when any injury has been done us, we are to endeavor to regard it with so much resentment as any just and impartial person would feel on hearing it related, and no more. To revenge injuries is to retaliate evil for the sake of retaliation. We are, all weak, frail, and sinful creatures. None of us passes through one day without feeling that he requires forgiveness from his God, and too often also from his fellow- creatures. Mercy is all our hope, forgiveness our constant prayer. In such a state, should we not pity and assist each other? Does not mutual weakness call for mutual forbearances? Weak, frail, and sinful as we are, we all hope, through the merits of Christ, to attain the happiness of heaven; and can creatures who, after a few short years, expect to, be forever united in the presence of God, to be liberated from all unruly passions, and to live together forever in heavens, in peace, and joy, and everlasting love can such creatures hate each other on earth? can they add to the sorrows of this state of trial, and spread more thorns in the path of life by acts of malice and revenge? can they risk their own eternal happiness by denying to each other that forgiveness without which they must not dare to hope that they shall be themselves forgiven? We know, from the express declaration of our Savior, that if we forgive not men their trespasses, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us. Christ estimated virtues by their solid utility, and not by their fashion or popularity, and hence he prefers the duty of forgiveness to every other. He enjoins it more frequently, with more earnestness, and under a greater variety of forms and he adds this weighty and peculiar circumstance, that the forgiveness of others is the sole condition on which we are to expect or even ask from God forgiveness for ourselves. This preference is justified by the superior importance of the virtue itself. The feuds and animosities which exist in families and among neighbors, which disturb the intercourse of human life, and collectively compose half its misery, have their foundation in the want of a forgiving temper, and can never cease except by the exercise of this virtue. Let us endeavor to forgive, that we may not be afraid to ask forgiveness. Let us take care so to pray for forgiveness, that our prayers may not justify and increase our condemnation. Let us remember the amazing condescension of the Son of God, in ‘ taking upon him the form of a servant,' and thence learn humility. Let us represent to our minds the terms of our salvation, in order to excite us to repentance. Let us adore the infinite love of our Redeem, who laid down his life for his enemies,' and let this be the pattern of our charity" (Fellowes, Body of Theology, 2:210-213; Paley, Moral and Polit. Philosophy, 1:269; Warner, System of Divinity and Morality, 2:356). — Robinson, Theological Dictionary, s.v.; American Presbyterian Review, October 1867, art. 2.
"Some confound things that are separate and different the act of forgiving with the act of loving with approbation. — Repentance and confession are indispensable, when one has intentionally injured us in any way, to restore him to our fellowship and approbation. But what is a necessary condition of this is not a necessary condition of forgiving. Blending these two things together, and thinking of them as if they were one and inseparable, has doubtless caused some to differ in opinion from others who clearly discern the proper distinctions. It is a mistaken idea that in the matter of forgiveness we are strictly to imitate God the Father, and not forgive those who trespass against us until they repent and ask our pardon. God is clothed with the responsibilities of moral government over his creatures, while we are not. If he had made it our duty to revenge our own wrongs, and administer just punishment to the doers of the wrong, then it would be right and wise to follow his example in that particular. But the case is far otherwise. The Lord not only relieves us of that responsibility, but has commanded us not to usurp his prerogatives: ‘ Avenge not yourselves.' No doubt there are certain cases in civil and family governments in. which the outward acts of forgiveness. should be held in abeyance until forgiveness is duly sought. The offender in himself has no right to forgiveness until he seeks it in the true spirit of repentance. In the outward expressions of this, parents should often wait for the outward signs of penitence in their children. The same. may be true sometimes in other relations as between brothers and sisters and other domestic and civil relations. Hence there is an objective and a subjective view to be taken of the duty of forgiveness — an act in the heart, and an appropriate outward and formal expression of it. The former should be performed at once, to prevent greater evil to ourselves, while the latter may wisely be delayed until the proper occasion for it arrives. One may say he forgives, when in reality he does not forgive from the heart; so we may forgive from the heart long before we proclaim it to the parties concerned" (Zion's Heralds, January 2, 1867).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Forgiveness'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/f/forgiveness.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.