Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (epiphany) of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13
daily and hourly filled by the above mentioned and indicated wrongs on Satan's part. To bear with these things has called for the greatest exhibition of forbearance from God ever exemplified and perhaps ever to be exemplified. We stand lost in wonder, love and praise when we consider it. How truly sublime and beautiful is this attribute in God's character, as it has been expressed toward Satan's person, character, plans and works during these over 6,000 years!
Great, too, has been His forbearance toward the fallen angels. After man's fall into sin, and before the flood, the Lord gave the good angels charge of the human family. Their efforts before the flood to reform sinful men failed; and in their bewilderment over their failure Satan, pointing out that man's degeneracy was due to an evil heredity, suggested that they use their power of creating human bodies and of appearing in them as men, to propagate a sinless race, by their imparting their sinless and perfect powers to their offspring by women. Some of the angels refused to do this as being unauthorized by God; but, alas, others, so intent at stopping human degradation as not to scrutinize carefully the methods recommended therefore, fell in with Satan's suggestion and hence generated, not perfect and sinless humans, but a hybrid giant race that added to human sin (Gen. 6: 1-4). Too late, after sinning, they found out that, like Mother Eve, they had been deceived into sin by her deceiver. Their sin debarring them from God's presence and leading to their confinement within the atmosphere of this earth, they have been further entrapped by Satan to become his associates in the administration of his empire, and as a result have supported him in the evils that he has committed against God and men. Indeed, we have reason to believe that not a few of them have gone so far in their opposition to truth and righteousness as, like Satan, completely to have undermined their
characters so that they are proving incorrigible. Others of these, sickened by their sin and its unhappy consequences, seemingly are strenuously seeking to regain their former rectitude. For these the Bible holds out hope of a restoration to God's favor through the operation of the Millennial judgment. But these seem, only after Christ finished his work on earth, to have started to arise from the pit of sin and the mire of iniquity. Accordingly, from at least 120 years before the flood (Gen. 6: 1, 3, 4, 2) until after Pentecost, a period of about 2,600 years, all of them supported Satan and many of them have continued to do so ever since. Well can we comprehend in a measure how much of forbearance on God's part was called for by their unholy course. But His forbearance was equal to the task of giving Him all the mildness and unvindictiveness that their wrongs against Him, and the persons, principles and things in which He was interested, called for Him to exercise in order to bring victory out of the chaos of sin and the curse.
So, too, has man's course toward God and the persons, principles and things in which God has been interested, called upon God to exercise forbearance in order to effect His purpose with reference to man. Eve's deception called for some exercise of forbearance on God's part; but Adam's willfulness called for more; and this forbearance showed itself, not in withholding the sentence that justice required to be inflicted, but in the manner, method and purpose of its infliction. The gradualness of its infliction shows God's forbearance in its infliction. Permitting man to make the best of his death-producing surroundings during its infliction is another example of God's forbearance therein. His educative purpose of teaching man by its infliction the bad nature and fearful effects of sin, in order to bring about his hatred and avoidance of sin, is still another evidence of God's forbearance therein. Not only was the antediluvian wickedness
of mankind an example of God's long-suffering, it was even more so an example of His forbearance. Then to have forborne for 120 years the climacteric forms of antediluvian transgression strikingly exemplifies God's forbearance. The development of heathen religions after the flood, so blasphemous as to God, so degrading as to man and so harmful as to Truth, was another stage for the play of God's forbearance toward man; for as the Apostle in Rom. 1 assures us, the introduction of such religions among mankind was due to the increasing human depravity—a thing taken advantage of by Satan as the occasion and the means of their spread. How expressive of God's forbearance with the Amorites is the statement that wrath delayed to express itself, and that for nearly 500 years, because their iniquity was not yet full (Gen. 15: 16)!
Certainly the wrongs committed against Jacob and Joseph called for God to act forbearingly toward the oppressors of His faithful servants. The over-a-centurylong oppression of Israel by the Egyptians and the formers' groans and cries to their covenant God, bring to mind another major example of God's forbearance. The manner, the kinds and the occasions of the ten plagues in Egypt and the circumstances of the overthrow of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, also strikingly illustrate Jehovah's forbearance toward obstinate man. Israel's waywardness, greediness, idolatry, discontent, murmursomeness, disobedience, and unchastity, one and all furnished occasions for the exercise of God's forbearance. Their repeated apostasies during the period of the Judges and Kings, their persecution of God's prophets, their espousing of false religions, their unbelief as to God's covenant protection, their prohibited association with heathen nations and peoples and their increase in sin, one and all were very forbearingly endured by God. And when the Lord did arise and punish them, it was
forbearingly done, and He was quickly moved to mildness and non-vindictiveness toward them. His returning of them from their many captivities to His favor, especially from Babylon, were acts of forbearance. And greatly did He forbear the corruption of real religion among them into an external ceremonialism by the scribes and Pharisees. His bearing with them for 1,845 years in spite of their many wrath tending activities remarkably shows His forbearance.
One of the greatest exhibitions of forbearance on God's part is His attitude amid the mistreatment that His Christ class has received. The Christ class consists of Jesus and His faithful followers. Of all God's creatures, these are the closest to His heart. A mother may forget her sucking child, but He never can forget these. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His love for, and delight in these abide eternal, unchangeable and unalloyed. Whoever touches these touches the apple of His eye. We can form no adequate conception of the height and depth, length and breadth of God's love for these. But of all His creatures they have been the most hated, despised and mistreated, and that because of their loyalty to Him, His principles, His cause and His people, and because of the enmity of those who are out of harmony with the course that such loyalty makes them take. When we see the baiting that Jesus endured for over three years from the Jewish clergy and consider the final harrowing experiences through which He passed because of His loyalty and their consequent enmity, and then remember how God felt toward Him, we can form a faint idea of the forbearance of God, who could contain Himself amid such scenes. The long-drawn-out, untoward experiences through which Jesus' faithful followers have passed because of their loyalty and because of the enmity of God's and their foes, present us with another very remarkable exhibition of God's forbearance. The persecution of the Jewish Christians
by their Israelitish brethren furnishes many examples of God's forbearance. The ten pagan persecutions of the Christians in the Roman Empire, coupled with the fiendish tortures, blood-thirsty cruelties, prolonged agonies and devilish revilings that Roman hardheartedness inflicted for nearly three long centuries, furnished innumerable occasions for vindictiveness on God's part; yet He was forbearing throughout them, compatibly with perfecting His saints amid suffering.
But the climax of human, yea, fiendish cruelty, was reached in the papal persecutions of the saints, through which the apostate Church of Rome spotted her garments with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus. As if excommunication, outlawry, interdicts, curses, exile, infamy, imprisonment and wars, were not enough of evil with which to afflict them, Rome must needs institute the Inquisition for their special torture. The following are some of the things that the Inquisition, under sanction of "infallible" popes, did to God's saints: scourged them, stretched them on racks six to eight inches longer than their natural sizes, disjointed their bones, broke their teeth with hammers, cut out their tongues, sliced off their cheeks, cut off their ears, lips and noses, gouged out their eyes, poured melted lead into their empty eye sockets, into their ears and down their throats, pulled out their nails with hot pincers, cut off their fingers, toes, hands and feet, cut off the breasts of women, ripped open pregnant women, tearing from them their unborn infants, which they sometimes burned at the stake with their prospective mothers, tortured with special instruments the most sensitive parts of the human body, skinned, boiled, roasted and burned them alive, forced urine and glass-mixed excrement down their throats, broke their arms by suddenly raising and letting them fall not quite to the floor, with chains attached to pulleys in the ceilings and fastened to their hands, which were back of them and with heavy
weights attached to their feet, forced them to submit to the embraces of a machine called the "kissing virgin," which was covered with horse-shoe nails and knife-blades, whose points entered the bodies pressed against the machine, and to a "crushing virgin," inside of which the victims were similarly pierced while being crushed, applied to them thumb screws and "Spanish boots" made of iron, the former crushing their thumbs at the nails and the latter, with their iron wedges pounded by sledge hammers between the boots and the legs very shortly reduced their feet and legs to the knees to pulp, made them sit on the Spanish donkey, whose sharp point entered the body, heavy weights being tied to their hands and feet, impaled them, pulled their legs out by tying their feet with long ropes to two horses which were made to run at full speed in opposite directions, tied them naked to fleet horses which dragged them until dead over rocky fields, made them sit naked astride narrow straddles with heavy weights attached to the arms and legs, cast them off precipices upon spears below, where they hung until dead, beheaded, dismembered, disemboweled, burned, drowned, hanged them, buried them alive, tortured and murdered their nearest relatives before their eyes, made their children infamous, outlaws and exiles, etc., etc., etc. These things were done, not for a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade or a century, but for many centuries.
These are the main things the "Holy" Inquisition did against them, but the papacy used other means: stirring up kings and nations to war on them. Innocent III, mightiest of the popes, by the promise of a plenary indulgence raised a crusade of 500,000 French, Italian and German soldiers against the French Waldenses and Albigenses. These devastated entire provinces, slaughtering at Beziers 60,000 men, women and children, at Lavaur, a slightly smaller number, and in one day, after attending a morning mass,
slaughtered 100,000 Albigenses, as well as laid waste the fair province of Languedoc, the clergy publicly thanking God for "this glorious victory" over the heretics. Charles V and Philip II, at papal instigation, martyred 100,000 Protestants in the Netherlands alone. The French kings, Francis, Henry, Charles and Louis XIV, at papal instigation, fiendishly persecuted the Huguenots in France, slaughtering them with great cruelty by the hundreds of thousands and exiling over a million of them. Papacy boasted over, struck a medal for, and made an approving painting of, the massacres of "St. Bartholomew's" times, when from 70,000 to 100,000 of them were treacherously slain as a result of papal intrigue and duplicity. The papacy, in order to exterminate the Protestants, stirred up the Thirty Years War, one of the major curses of the human family. The papacy stirred up the religious war of 1641 that destroyed 154,000 Protestant men, women and children in Ulster alone. The above are only the leading evils that papacy brought upon God's saints in the way of violence. Almost everywhere and always was it for more than a thousand years seeking to root up and destroy the Faithful. As to all of this God was able to bear and forbear. His purpose of perfecting in character the Faithful like our Lord, through suffering, for the high and responsible offices of Kings and Priests for the world, kept Him in this forbearing attitude. But even so, we stand astounded at the strength of character that enabled Him to continue such forbearance amid such, to Him, heart-touching scenes of His children's sufferings.
Just one other sphere wherein God's forbearance has greatly exercised itself—the sphere of Truth and right principles. Jehovah is the God of all Truth and right principle. He has been pleased to reveal to us His Truth and its principles. These are calculated to free men from the power of sin, error, selfishness and worldliness—the four foundations of Satan's power
and empire. Satan recognizes such to be the function of God's Truth and its principles of righteousness, and therein rightly recognizes them to be a menace to his purposes and empire. Therefore he has set himself to the work of suppressing them and their exponents. His efforts to suppress the Truth and its principles have expressed themselves especially in the ways: (1) of suppressing their exponents, so that having no defenders they would perish from men's minds; and (2) of counterfeiting them and palming off these counterfeits, as the genuine, and thus also seeking to make them perish from men's minds. In working out his first purpose he brought the persecutions, tortures and wars above-mentioned, against the exponents of Truth and its principles, and in working out his second purpose he sought to seduce from their loyalty the exponents of these, and has succeeded more or less with all except the Faithful. Through those thus seduced he palms off error for truth and truth for error, right for wrong and wrong for right. This accounts for the false religions in the world, particularly in Christendom. Satan was one of the most attentive hearers that Jesus and the Apostles had; and when from their teachings he had learned the real plan of God, he worked out a counterfeit for each of its features. Thus he perverted every feature of God's plan and perverted the principles of Christian life that it teaches. This counterfeit he palmed off on the world through the measurably disloyal teachers of God's Word, who, among others, are pictured forth by Balaam, greedy for honor, power and wealth, and willing to compromise Truth and righteousness to gain these. Satan has used the very brightest minds that he could get to work skillfully on his counterfeit and to make it appear the genuine article. God's faithful servants, to the degree that they perceived various features of the counterfeit as such, set themselves in opposition to it and sought to vindicate as against it the Truth
and its principles which were counterfeited by it. This has been carried on for centuries—yea, ever since Satan started out to palm off his counterfeit in its various features. The Faithful's fighting to gain or retain a footing for the Truth and its principles is called the controversy of Zion in the Scriptures (Is. 34: 8). Many a saint has worn himself out unto death in this struggle. God was pleased in His forbearance to allow them and the Truth and its principles for which they contended to be crushed temporarily to the earth and seemingly to suffer defeat. But their seeming defeat was a real victory, because their faithfulness to death qualified them for kingship and priesthood in the Millennium, when under Christ they will crush the head of him (Satan) who in this life bruised their heel—made it so hard for them to walk the narrow way. But "Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again," and in this case has risen again and is triumphantly holding the field against every counterfeit of the true. But this treading down of Truth and its principles has furnished God with untold circumstances calling for Him to exercise forbearance. And with a steadfast holding in His heart and mind of His purpose in leaving His Faithful so hard a warfare to wage for Truth and its principles, He has always exercised the requisite amount of forbearance, and thus has revealed to us in His acts, as well as in His Word, the marvels of His forbearance.
But God is not forbearing under all circumstances. He exercises this quality at the direction of wisdom, justice, love and power; so, also, at their dictation, He refrains from its exercise. This accounts for His many punishments of sin and sinners. These are abundantly exemplified in the curse, in the deluge, in the judgment upon the cities of the plain, upon Egypt, upon the seven nations in Canaan and the surrounding nations, and upon Israel, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome and the nations into which the
latter has disintegrated. We are now living in the Day of Wrath, which began specifically with the World War, will proceed through a world revolution and come to a climax in world anarchy. This wrath will strike all nations, particularly of Christendom, and in Christendom will especially be poured out on papacy, ending in its eternal ruin. In this wrath time, God has ceased to exercise His former forbearance toward evil institutions. The purposes of their permission having been about accomplished, their downfall will be as a result and as an expression of God's wrath, which will burn unto a completion. Thus we see His wonderful forbearance when required by wisdom, justice, love and power; and thus we see His wonderful forbearance held in abeyance as required by these same qualities. Praised be our God for all His works: for those of forbearance and for those of wrath; for all of them are done in wisdom, justice, love and power for the ultimate good of all!
Forgiveness is the next secondary attribute of God's character that we desire to study. By forgiveness we understand the quality of heart and mind whereby one ceases to cherish displeasure or resentment and to inflict punishment for wrong done him and in their place puts pleasure at and friendliness toward the offender and remits any punishment that may be due for such wrong. According to this definition, forgiveness consists of two elements: (1) an internal active characteristic, and (2) an external act. It presupposes that one has been wronged and that this wrong has worked the displeasure and resentment of the wronged person who, in some form or other, holds something against the wrongdoer. The thing held against the latter is punishment for the wrong. The punishment that he enforces or seeks to enforce against the wrongdoer may be simply a mental one, or it may be a verbal one, or it may be one expressed, in act. The punishment may consist in the negative withholding of some benefit or
the positive infliction of some injury. Forgiveness acts under such conditions. It puts aside the displeasure and resentment held against the wrongdoer, takes on the attitude of pleasure in, and friendliness toward him and remits the negative or positive punishment due or thought due for the wrong. In every real forgiveness the above things will be found. Accordingly, when we say that God is forgiving we thereby imply that, while He has been wronged and such wrong displeases Him, arouses His resentment and He punishes or arranges to punish the wrongdoer, yet for certain reasons He ceases to cherish displeasure and resentment at the wrongdoer and, on the other hand, cherishes pleasure and friendliness toward him and ceases to arrange for his punishment or desists from inflicting it, or He would not forgive.
Certainly God has been greatly wronged. Sin is the form that all such wrongs take. Sometimes these wrongs are done Him directly and sometimes they are done indirectly. Direct wrongs against God are done when He is refused the place of supremacy in our dispositions, thoughts, motives, words and acts, or when such supremacy is accorded others with or apart from Him, especially so when these others are inimical to Him. Again, God is directly wronged when His person is denounced or traduced, His character is misrepresented or detracted from, His plans are disbelieved, misbelieved, misrepresented, corrupted or vilified and His works are denounced, renounced, misrepresented, resisted or vilified. So, too, is He directly sinned against when He is disbelieved, despaired in, hated and disobeyed. Frequently direct sin against God takes the form of ingratitude, inappreciation and impiety, as they may also be omissions of duty toward Him. Whoever does any of these or kindred things directly sins against God. Such things displease Him, arouse His resentment and lead to the infliction of some just punishment. On the other hand, God is indirectly sinned
against when wrong is done to His creatures, especially those of His creatures who become His sons and servants. Dishonoring parents, civil rulers, teachers or, other superiors is a sin against God, though indirect. So, too, to hate or injure or kill one's neighbor, to violate his home, to injure him in his property rights or reputation, or in any unfair way to seek to divert anything of his from him, are sins against God, none the less real by being indirect. The reason for this is that God has given all certain rights and demands of all respect for such rights, hence to violate these is an attack on God's laws, ordinances and creatures, and hence it arouses His displeasure, resentment and consequent punishment against the wrongdoer.
Sometimes such punishment takes the form of God's hiding Himself from the offender, whereby He makes him feel His displeasure and resentment. Sometimes it takes the form of depriving him of evidences of former favors, e.g., taking Truth, graces and opportunities of service from him, taking physical blessings from him, like health, friends, business, position, relatives, etc. Indeed, the entire curse is an expression of punishment for sin, culminating in death. It is seen in the driving of our first parents from Eden, in Cain's vagabond life, in the flood, the confusing of tongues, the scattering of the nations, the destruction of the cities of the plain, the ten plagues on Egypt, the destruction of the Egyptian host in the Red Sea, the plagues on, and the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness, the destruction of the seven nations of Canaan, the oppressions of Israel during the periods of the judges and kings, Israel's various calamities, captivities and dispersions among the nations, the evils that persecutors endured, the afflictions of sectarianism and the present troubles in the world beginning with and resulting from the Word War. Yea, in its very nature sin brings some kind of punishment upon the sinner.
God, as the Source, Expounder and Maintainer of justice, must punish sin, as He must feel displeasure at, and resentment toward it. His justice is unbending and therefore exacting. But, blessed be His name, His love also operates and has under the direction of wisdom made it possible in harmony with justice to cease cherishing displeasure at, resentment toward, and punishment for our sin. We are not to think that God, as it were, ignores the dictates of justice when He exercises forgiveness. This would make Him unjust, which He is not. Rather He gives His justice full sway while giving His love full sway and thus, without violating His justice, He in love forgives. This brings us to the most amazing expression of love ever so far manifested and, so far as our knowledge goes, the most amazing expression of love that ever will be manifested: God gave up His own well-beloved and only begotten Son to meet the sentence of His own law against sinners so that He might remain just while forgiving them (Rom. 3: 24-26). And our Lord Jesus in the loyalty of His heart was also equal to the meeting of the situation by facing for us the demands of justice for the world's sin, that He might thus redeem us from the sentence of justice, and thus make it possible for God's love to forgive us in harmony with His justice (Rom. 5: 6-11; 2 Cor. 5: 18-21). Herein we glory and hereby we attain forgiveness (Rom. 4: 24-5: 1). Thus we see that God does not become unjust while forgiving us. Having justly sentenced the sinner, He could not forgive him unless the sinner were made good for to God's justice. And God Himself made the hard sacrifice—surrendering His Son unto death for enemies—and Jesus willingly carried it out, so that we might enjoy forgiveness from God for Christ's sake.
To enjoy such forgiveness we have something to do. Not that we can merit it; for being condemned to utter bankruptcy we have nothing of worth, nor can
have anything of worth that is not forfeited. All the merit is our Lord's and all the grace is God's and Christ's. Yet, for us fully to receive God's forgiveness, there are certain conditions that we must fulfill. These are three: (1) repentance toward God, (2) faith toward our Lord Jesus and (3) consecration of ourselves to God fully. The first implies that in addition to being sorry for sin, especially because it displeases God, we hate and forsake it, seeking to make amends to all concerned, and that we heartily love and practice righteousness toward God and man. The second implies that we distrust our own ability to commend ourselves to God's approval and heartily trust and act upon the trust that Jesus' righteousness makes up for all our lacks and sins before God for our justification before God. The third implies that we heartily give up self-will and world-will and heartily accept God's will as ours. Those who so have done during the Gospel Age have received fully and actually God's forgiveness, i.e., God ceased to cherish displeasure, resentment and punishment toward them and cherished pleasure, friendliness and remission of punishment toward them. Indeed, in a tentative way those who fulfilled the first and second conditions for forgiveness have during the Gospel Age enjoyed forgiveness from God.
God's purpose in forgiving sins is a manifold one. The chief purpose is to bring about full reconciliation between Himself and those who experience it. He desires to be friendly toward and pleased with them; and He desires them to be friendly toward and pleased with Him. Hence He is glad to exercise His quality of forgiveness on all who will respond to His conditions for forgiveness. Then, too, He wishes to uplift the fallen, and exercising His forgiving love is one of the most effective methods of making them willing to receive His uplifting help. Further, He has desired to draw the forgiven ones closer to Him along
selective lines so that they might become fitted for life eternal and in it be instrumental in helping others to come to God in reconciliation. Indeed, this has been the main practical purpose in God's exercising His Gospel-Age forgiving spirit. And out of this purpose will be developed three elect classes Who, together with the faithful of the Old Testament, will be wonderfully used by Him as His Millennial agents to help the rest of mankind to draw near to God in reconciliation. Doubtless there is forgiveness with God, that His name, character, may be revered. By showing us His forgiving love, not only when we were first justified, but all through our lives in the almost infinitude of our lacks, faults, mistakes and sins, God has been revealing to us a most merciful, kind, long-suffering, forbearing, patient, self-controlling and generous disposition; and when we contrast our many shortcomings with His perfections and tireless forgiveness of our sins of weakness and ignorance, the longer and more devoutly we contemplate Him in these respects, the more do we grow in reverence for Him—a reverence that expresses itself in gratitude, praise, worship, adoration, honor, devotion and service. And this, in turn, makes us more like God, more responsive to Him and more helpful to our fellows. Another of God's purposes in exercising forgiveness is to encourage those not yet forgiven, but desirous of forgiveness, to seek it by taking the necessary steps thereto. Then, too, He exercises it so that when the world comes in the Millennial Age to see its privileges, it will be encouraged the better to profit from God's past dealings with His people in premillennial times. Such forgiveness has also the purpose of reflecting credit upon God and Christ and to make us all the more hate sin and practice righteousness. Accordingly, God's purposes in connection with forgiveness is not an encouragement of sin, but the
reverse—a most effectual discouragement to sin and an encouragement to righteousness.
The qualities that characterize God's forgiveness are worthy of our study. It is pitiful. God deeply feels for the sinner in the misfortunes that immerse him. Man's degradation, physical, mental, moral and religious, deeply touches God's heart. God feels for him at his losses, disappointments, lacks and pains, incidental to his sin. God pities him because of sin's alienation of him from God. God's sympathy is keen toward him because of the sufferings that sin brings on him; and God pities him because ultimately sin must accomplish his destruction. Therefore pity certainly characterizes God's forgiveness. Also God's forgiveness is characterized by His love. His heart is full of good will, both the good will of justice and the good will of charity, and these express themselves in forgiveness. God loves the sinner himself, not for a profit that God would make out of him for Himself, but because He delights to bless him. He desires to see him get the advantages that will accrue to him, if he receives God's forgiveness. God desires him to enjoy the pleasures and profits of reconciliation with God. God desires him to be elevated, ennobled and hallowed, because this will profit him intrinsically. Then, God desires him to become a blessing in the ennoblement, elevation and hallowing of his fellows. God ardently longs for him to make an everlasting success of himself for himself and others. Therefore He greatly desires to forgive him as an essential step for these good things. Surely, His forgiveness is full of love.
Then, too, it is liberal. God does not have to be bribed into it by our supposed good works. He does not have to be constrained into it by physical, mental, moral or religious force. He does not give it grudgingly, unwillingly, upbraidingly and threateningly. He bestows it more freely than the air that we
breathe, more unctuously than the most gracious heart of man can feel, more heartily than the most spontaneous lover can favor his love, and more readily than the most beneficent of benefactors can bestow his favors. His forgiveness is full. He does not forgive the little weaknesses and hold against us our large ones. He does not forgive part of our forgivable sins and hold against us the rest of them. He does not forgive our sins against man and hold against us those against Him. He forgives all our sins. He removes all of them as far from us as the East is from the West. Be they ever so many or few, ever so large or small, ever so gross or refined, ever so strong or weak, ever so monstrous or trivial, He stands ready to forgive them all, as He knew all about them and arranged to forgive them long before we applied to Him for forgiveness.
His forgiveness is unchangeable. Some people forgive for awhile and then become displeased, resentful and injurious over the wrongs that they forgave, but not so Jehovah. He forgives forever. He remembers the forgiven sins and iniquities no more. Our lives after forgiveness are a new copy book to Him, with none of its pages having any imperfect and mistaken writing. He chides us not for the sins of the past. He does not remind us of them. He treats us as though they were never committed, and He does not hold them to our disadvantage. Even in the case of those who after becoming His forsake Him, He does not hold against them the sins He forgave, but those only that they impenitently love and practice afterwards. He forgives graciously. He delights to forgive. His heart overflows with joy at forgiving. The chief joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, or over one erring child of God who turns again to the Lord, is that which God's own heart feels. He makes the one whom He forgives feel at least in a measure the pleasure that God feels at His forgiveness
of others. While to the impenitent God turns His back, to the penitent He turns His face, beaming with a graciousness that is indescribable and all pervasive. And, finally, His forgiveness is costly—costly to Himself and to His Son. It is not as though God has been at no pains to be able to forgive. He made the supreme sacrifice, of which He, the Infinite One, was capable, in order to be able to forgive— He gave the most preciously loved possession that He might be able to forgive, even His only begotten and well beloved Son, and that, not for friends, but for enemies. O, come, let us adore Him for His forgiving grace! Let us bow down before Him and worship and praise Him who alone is so supremely good as to merit more than any of His creatures are able to give Him, when giving their best!
The Scriptures give us many testimonies as to God's forgiving sins. When the Lord proclaimed a number of His attributes to Moses on Mt. Sinai, He included forgiveness among them (Ex. 34: 6, 7). He arranged the typical sacrifices in a way to illustrate various phases of His forgiveness (Lev. 4: 20, 26; 5: 4-10). He makes known His forgiveness in suitable manners (Num. 14: 20). He exemplified it in His forgiving His servant David (2 Sam.
12: 13). Repeatedly did He forgive Israel; and at the dedication of the temple the prayer offered there indicates His readiness to forgive them (1 Kings 8: 33, 34). Even hidden or secret sins are not beyond His forgiving power (Ps. 19: 12). The sins of youth as well as of age He alike forgives (Ps. 25: 7). Their greatness and accompanying afflictions are no bar to His forgiveness (Ps. 25: 11, 18). An honest confession accompanied by resolution of amendment, with faith in God's grace and mercy, meets ready forgiveness from God (Ps. 32: 1, 2, 5). God's people, though overcome by sin, still find room for forgiveness (Ps. 65: 3). God's honor and character
are a guarantee of forgiveness (Ps. 79: 9). His forgiveness does not only embrace individuals, but also His people as a whole (Ps. 85: 2). Even amid punishment for sin He stands ready to forgive, on the conditions therefore being fulfilled (Ps. 99: 8). He makes a thorough work of forgiveness (Ps.
103: 12). His forgiveness is in order to the betterment of the sinner (Ps. 130: 4). He stands ever ready to reason with the sinner in order to bring him to repentance (Is. 1: 18; 43: 26). He forgives so thoroughly as to forget our forgiven sins (Is. 43: 25). He pleads with His backslidden people to return and obtain forgiveness (Is. 44: 22). He invites people to seek His forgiving love while it is possible to obtain it, encouraging them by a gracious and forgiving reception (Is. 55: 6, 7). He asks for reformation as a condition of forgiveness (Jer. 5: 1, 7; Ezek. 33: 14, 15). Unlike many people who forgive, yet remember and upbraidingly make mention of the wrongs done them, God not only forgives but forgets and never mentions the forgiven sins upbraidingly (Jer. 31: 34; Ezek. 33: 16). His forgiveness embraces all sins, iniquities and transgressions (Jer. 33: 8). Thus we have given a summary of the main Old Testament passages that treat of God's forgiveness, acting toward human beings.
But the New Testament has much to say on this subject. Its opening chapter tells us that God sent Jesus to be the Savior of God's people from sin (Matt. 1: 21). God promises to forgive us as we forgive others, but refuses to forgive us unless we forgive others (Matt. 6: 12-14; Mark 11: 26). He illustrates the fact of His forgiving us as an inducement to us to forgive others, and of His withholding forgiveness from us, if we refuse to forgive others, in the parable of the two debtors (Matt. 18: 23-35). The New Testament more clearly than the Old Testament shows the meritorious cause of God's forgiveness—
the ransom sacrifice of Christ (Matt. 26: 28). He requires the exercise of faith in Jesus for the attainment of His forgiveness (Mark 2: 5, 7; Acts 10: 36, 43). He forgives all kinds of sins except that against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3: 28). God caused John the Baptist to make the forgiveness of sins the main subject of his preaching (Luke 3: 3). And Jesus charged that it should be preached in His name along with repentance among all nations (Luke 24: 47). Graciously did the Lord forgive the woman taken in adultery (John 8: 11). The Lord empowered His faithful people to act as His mouthpieces in announcing His forgiveness (John 20: 23). He forgives that He may bestow the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 38). God has arranged for the forgiveness of sins through Christ's sacrifice because there is no other way to gain it (Acts 13: 38, 39). One of the purposes of the ministry of God's Word is to bring forgiveness to the repentant believers and consecrating hearers (Acts 26: 16-18). It is indeed a blessing to obtain forgiveness from God (Rom. 4: 7, 8). We are encouraged to copy God's and Christ's gracious example in forgiveness (Eph. 4: 32). God forgives us that we may live (Col. 2: 13). Sins cannot be forgiven except by the sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 9: 22, 28). It is the privilege of God's people to help erring brethren and other people to come to the Lord for forgiveness (Jas. 5: 20). The blood of Christ works before God the cleansing of all our sins of weakness and ignorance (1 John 1: 7, 9). We should not sin; but if we do, we should not despair, but go to God through Christ, who as our Advocate is our propitiation for the forgiveness that will be ours (1 John 2: 1, 2). It is our privilege, not only to seek for the forgiveness of our own sins, but also to pray for the forgiveness of others' sins (1 John 5: 16). And in all our enjoyment of forgiveness let us not fail to give God the honor of giving us Christ