Forgiveness and nonforgiveness?


New Member
The Bible states pretty clearly "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". And this is again reinforced in the parable of the unmerciful servant. Yet, it is argued there is no 'unforgivable' sin. So what happens to people who die and have yet to forgive the people who have wronged them? Forgiveness is an ongoing process, I can say 'I forgive you' and really mean it but then next week change my mind. Even harder to forgive (sometimes) are ourselves. Can God forgive us when we are unable to forgive ourselves?
Yes, we should forgive everyone who sins against us, great and small. It's hard, near impossible but with God everything is possible. However the majority of ordinary folks will probably die with one or two enemies.
An example would be in war, people die in hatred. Or it could be just that someone has wronged another so badly or the other party refuses to forgive.

And what if you wronged someone, and that someone refuses to forgive you. What happens then?

Discuss. Thanks.
I'd suggest looking at Christ's words immediately below the Lord's prayer:

Jesus (NLT) said:
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Those are the next two verses.

I should point out, however, that the word there is "refuse" rather than "are unable to."

There are several other verses with similar themes throughout the gospels.

Worthwhile topic :)
Yes, so essentially, there IS a way to send your worst enemy straight to hell, all you have to do is make sure he hates you, and then kill him before he forgives you. He dies in his unforgiveness.
That's the problem here, in that case lots of 'Christian' prisoners of war would have not only sacrificed their lives to war, but their souls as well.
And is 'self forgiveness' included? To live in regret and never forgive yourself over some really bad stuff you've done.

And then there's the issue of partial forgiveness. I forgive you for breaking my back. 2 months later I still cannot walk, and I begin to hate you again. Does that mean God is going to retract his forgiveness? Or two years later I hate someone else, and have yet to resolve it yet (forgiveness isn't instant all the time).
Next, what about forgiving people who hate God for crimes against others? Not everyone I dislike has offended me personally.

Ideally, we should forgive everyone and anyone who sins against anyone and everyone, including ourselves. However, I'd think lots of Christians will have a few enemies on their deathbed. We I *TRY* to forgive, I should forgive anyone and everyone, for I have done some really bad things myself. We should pray for help to forgive. However I cannot guarantee I WILL forgive EVERYONE who has walked this earth who does something I don't agree with. If total forgiveness of everyone was a condition for forgiveness, no one would be in Heaven. King David ordered some *things* to some people who crossed him in his life, most notably the case of Shimei.
He is mentioned as one of David's tormentors during his flight before Absalom, and as imploring and winning David's forgiveness when the latter returned. David, however, in his dying charge to Solomon, bade him avenge the insult (I Kings 2:-9).
From wikipedia but yeah it happened. There were also others who David cursed with his dying breath, so to speak.
Later on, Isiah also cursed the false prophet who broke the wooden yoke.
Plenty of 'righteous anger' going around especially throughout the old testament, less in the new testament but remember the case of the guy who offered a lot of money for the Holy Spirit, and the apostles instead condemned him for justifiable reason, but it was not till he realized his folly that they forgave him.

Forgiving others is really important, definitely. It just may not be very possible. Once again, I know what we should do, I'm asking what if we fail to do it, and what became of the biblical figures who fail to do it?
Last edited:
Yes, so essentially, there IS a way to send your worst enemy straight to hell, all you have to do is make sure he hates you, and then kill him before he forgives you. He dies in his unforgiveness.

There's more than enough Biblical evidence to suggest that if you do this, on purpose, his sin will be credited towards you.

A couple of thoughts:
1) God is not a computer that lives in space somewhere. His forgiveness is not a simple on/off switch, nor is it bound by rules that say if you do one thing, he will always do another. Remember, all of humanity was bound up in sin before Christ appeared. This means that if it was up to what we do in order to be saved, we'd all be in hell already.

2) Forgiveness comes from God, to us. Not the other way around. And it comes from a God who loves us and knows our failings. And he extends it anyways. So there will never be a perfectly positive case of someone forgiving. In fact, in many ways true forgiveness in impossible, yet still, by the grace of God, people have been and continue to be able to forgive. Forgiveness in a miracle, and like all miracles, it comes from God alone.

3) None of the early Christians or Old Testament heroes were good enough men. David is called "a man after God's own heart" but you are right, he asks for revenge. He also murdered a rival, led his nation into wars (some of which were not God's will per se,) and spent his last days shacking up with the winner of a beauty pagent.

Yet David is listed in the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews:
Hebrews 11:32-34 NLT said:
How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.
I've always considered the Hall of Faith to be a good indicator of whether or not someone "made it," if we must go there.
Yeah, the problem is now there's a contradiction.

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
And what I gather from what you just said

Now you just said some people were forgiven, even though they did not forgive.
Once you receive the free gift of Salvation, and are washed clean white as snow in your spirit man, then you should renew your mind to become a more mature Christian from a newborn babe Christian.

Renewing your mind about forgiveness is going to get a big mountain out of your way as you by faith forgive with the strength of Jesus. In our own strength we keep running away with all the little jabs the darkness interjects in our mind and we move back into unforgiveness as we remember all the 'wrongs' that person did to us.

It takes a conscious choice to rebuke those thoughts that try to exalt themselves above the knowledge of God. God knows when your trying to live out His word and renew your mind and when your heart and thoughts dwell on revenge, hatred etc for the other person.

It can take a long time to truly be free of a stronghold of unforgiveness. It took 2 1/2 years of renewing my mind and for me to realize that Jesus had delivered me from 38 yrs of hatred for my Mother. Now, we have a real relationship. The devil stole 38 yrs and 8 yrs ago I received Christ as my Savior and 2 1/2 yrs after that I had JOY, true JOY once I was freed from the stronghold prison of unforgiveness!

Almost 7 years later I know the value of forgiving as quick as possible so as not to allow any festering of evil to take me away from God. Do I want to dream of revenge at times? Sure I do. My FLESH wants to (which you'll remember is still fallen and cursed) and sometimes I need to be reminded of God's word on that from a brother or sister in the Lord, but I do repent as fast as possible!

Think of unforgiveness as small pebble that can grow to huge boulder and even a mountain (if left to fester) that blocks your spirit and life from receiving all that God has for you, and you'll quickly want it gone.

Jesus judges the intent of the heart. A brother or sister who is renewing their mind feeding on God's word and living it is going to be forgiven when they forgive by faith and then walk it out. Change those stinkin thinkin evil thoughts with God's holy scriptures and walk the talk.

That's why it's so important to know God's word. When evil tries to whisper evil things into your mind check first to see if the thoughts are FROM God (thus lining up with the Word of God) or from the evil one (thus NOT lining up with the Word of God). Rebuke those evil thoughts and replace them with God's thoughts. That's the only way to renew your mind and cast down those strongholds! /roar for Jesus!! <3

And remember: Jesus is a 1 on 1 Lord and Savior. Let God work on you, and in you, and through you individually, just as He is working the same in every other person in your life. Let God BE God and do your part as He faithfully does His <3
Yeah, thanks for that, and I know we're supposed to forgive, which is both what God wants, and is better for ourselves too. But my real question was "what happened to those who died in unforgiveness"? Even King David? What happens when you turn from forgiveness to hating that person again? David originally forgave Shimei, but in his older years he changed his mind. Not sure if he ever gave up, or anyone in Isreal for that matter, ever gave up their hatred of the invading/foreign nations?

While I appreciate the testimonial and have indeed heard similar experiences of people finding themselves out of darkness when they live and let live, are you really sure you forgive EVERYONE the moment they sin against you? So let's say you somehow manage to forgive every single person in this world. I come and kill you, and for the second I'm killing you, you don't forgive me - yet. You have no time to forgive me, you are dead. What's going to happen then?

And what about people who find themselves unable to forgive their entire lives? I would assume that would account for actually a 'majority' of Christians, always hear people say 'and he never talked to me again' or 'left my family due to a past argument and never looked back'. And they die like that. Are they all condemned?

We are only saved because Jesus forgave our sins, but if he retracts that, or we always had at least one person we hated throughout our lives, then forgiveness does not come?

But I'd also like to make it clear I'm not a vengeful embodiment of hatred, just pretty much your ordinary Christian. Most of the time I live and let live. I have done lots of bad things that hurt lots of people, and obviously need forgiveness, after all there is no man (except Jesus who isn't really on par with man) who hasn't sinned. Safe to say, if not for Jesus, I'm condemned. However, forgiveness takes time, and even now, there are people I struggle to forgive, and there WILL ALWAYS be at least a few people I hate, at one point of my life or another, and have yet to overcome it. What's going to become of me? And if I forgave everyone now (somehow), and next year change my mind...
1) God is not a computer that lives in space somewhere. His forgiveness is not a simple on/off switch, nor is it bound by rules that say if you do one thing, he will always do another. Remember, all of humanity was bound up in sin before Christ appeared. This means that if it was up to what we do in order to be saved, we'd all be in hell already.
That switch would pretty much be flicked every day.
Last edited:
Our debt holder requires (commands) us to forgive those who are in debt to us. It is hard to forgive somebody who has hurt you deeply. I think we all can say we have struggled with this. I think we can be thankful at least in the knowledge that we do not have to be nailed to a cross to forgive others.

For myself, when I find it hard to forgive others, I see it as me being selfish. Like I need something so I can forgive said person. Like somehow them saying something actually means something. That is not asked of us by any stretch of the imagination. We are told to simply forgive those who have wronged us. To be the ones who simply wipe the slates clean, regardless of whether the person who wronged us owns up to their part in it.

Those of us who freely accepts God's grace and forgiveness and yet do not freely offer it to those who wronged us are going to have some serious issues to deal with later in life or at the throne.

Read Matthew 18:21-35 to see what Jesus taught about receiving forgiveness and the requirement to forgive.

I don`t think it teaches to go to everybody who you feel has wronged you to tell them you forgive them (they may not even know they wronged you and by telling them, you may open a can of worms that ought not be opened), sometimes, you have to forgive them between you and God. But certainly, if somebody comes to you and ask for your, having received forgiveness from God, are commanded to forgive as you have been.

ps...everyone of my posts includes in my signature....

Unforgiveness is like drinking poison hoping it will affect the other person.

And there is a link to Colossians 3:12-14, in which we are taught to Forgive as the Lord Forgave.

They are there for a reason.
Last edited:
Yeah, I agree, that's not the question though. Not asking why or if we should forgive (we should). Asking what happens if our forgiveness is partial, will God's forgiveness be partial, none at all, or full? Ideally, we would forgive everyone and not condemn anyone, especially since we're so guilty ourselves. However we also know that many, if not most Christians will die in hatred, at least to one or two people. What happens if we don't manage to forgive the Shimei in our lives, despite having forgiven everyone else? Even King David, in his righteousness, failed to forgive everyone, all the time.

Essentially, the question is if there's an on-off switch and how does God's forgiveness work.

While I understand and agree with what all of you folks are getting at, that we should always forgive, what I'd really like to know is what happens when we fail to do that. Even King David failed, and apparently he 'made it'. So *apparently* there's a little contradiction here. How could he have 'made it' when
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

I'd like to know the mechanics or 'rules' of it. Yes, God isn't a switch, but to simplify it, that's apparently how that verse/commandment works. Don't forgive others = no forgiveness no matter what, forgive others = Jesus will also forgive you, with other conditions such as repentance, my next question being what happens if there's one or two evils you don't repent from, but that's a different matter.
Last edited:
For a quick an dirty answer...
The Lord's Prayer is for Christians -- those who are saved. We forgive others because we are forgiven and Christ's forgiveness flows through us. However, we are still sinful creatures and we can never perfectly live up to God's law. We don't always forgive as perfectly as we should (as well as other sins that we commit). Thankfully, Christ even died for those sins.

For a MUCH better answer...
Here's a brief (less than 30 minutes) segment from a radio program where your question is discussed. If you want to skip the intro stuff, fast forward just short of the 4 minute mark.
Thanks, didn't look at the podcast yet, pretty busy at the moment, so will just comment on the one on peacemakers.
“I will not dwell on this incident.”
“I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
“I will not talk to others about this incident.”
“I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”
Good ideals, but you sure you extended that to EVERYONE? And the site does say we will fail very often, and that's an opportunity to get closer to God.
Still, doesn't directly address
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Also, my take on the 4 promises
“I will not dwell on this incident.”
Yeah unfortunately I can only acknowledge I accept it and let go, can't stop the thoughts to come up every time I'm reminded. If you have a 'silence that annoying voice in your head telling you to do stupid things' button, I'm very interested.
“I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
If you see someone doing the same thing again, is it all right to bring it up, not 'against you' but rather just to remind you to avoid the same pitfalls as before? Say you stole all my money to go gambling. If I see you walk into a casino again, I better remind you, for your sake more than mine.
“I will not talk to others about this incident.”
Not in the slanderous way, definitely not by go around spreading stuff, but sometimes necessary to talk to a professional to resolve personal hurts or real issues. I need to refer you to gambling help, and sign myself up for foodstamps or something. Maybe borrow money from a friend to eat until the next paycheck. But yeah I won't say who did it, though chances are he can guess...
“I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”
Sometimes very difficult and you may need to distance yourself from that person. If you were robbed and beaten up, you don't go back to the robber. However in the original case, you've said you were sorry, I'll probably help you seek help for your problem, but I'll also be a lot more careful where I leave my money.

We forgive others because we are forgiven and Christ's forgiveness flows through us. However, we are still sinful creatures and we can never perfectly live up to God's law. We don't always forgive as perfectly as we should (as well as other sins that we commit). Thankfully, Christ even died for those sins.
That's good, so while we have to try and keep trying, it's not going to happen overnight and if that's the case we're forgiven nonetheless. However that would change
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
to "Even if you fail to forgive some of those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will still forgive you because Christ died for your inability to forgive a certain someone." While Christ gives us the ability to forgive, it may not come to everyone, like I said, lots of people would die hating a certain someone that they don't even want to forgive.
Last edited:
Finally listened to the podcast.

12.05ish he talks about going down to church and receiving unconditional forgiveness and trying to forgive others.
However, he ignores the verse that unless you forgive FIRST there's no forgiveness for you.

A few moments earlier he talked about REFUSING to forgive and how that eats away at us like a cancer. However he didn't make it clear if we'll still be forgiven or not. Certainly not healthy, certainly not good. But are we still saved? I'm sure a large proportion of us have one or two folks we refuse to even consider forgiving and will get back at them come the opportunity. Definitely not healthy, some of those people may want to change, but still, are they saved?

Even though he said dont turn it into law as it comes from Christ, the verse still stands, no forgiveness of others = no forgiveness for you. And he did say there's a difference between those struggling to forgive (so they are technically forgiv-ing) and those who refuse to forgive. Once again, my concern is mainly with people who refuse to forgive or forget, namely war veterans who survived torture, people who have been assaulted and lost an arm or leg or things like that, where sometimes one can just say "I forgive everyone on earth EXCEPT him". Not healthy, but as a human being I wouldn't expect them to forgive that person.

Still a good listen, but mainly addresses "why we should forgive" while just lightly touching "what happens if we don't".
Last edited:
Hello everyone, my name is Vern. I'd like to comment briefly if I may.

I use to struggle with this very topic. My contention was how to reconcile without any contradiction Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.(emphasis on verse 15) in comparison to Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.;Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I now understand that Jesus's ministry and message was all before the cross thus under the Law which was conditional. The gospel message (good news) after the cross for the believer is filled with unconditional grace. It is finished. God has forgiven us eternally so we should not withhold forgiveness either.

My motive to forgive others is not so that I can receive forgiveness but because of the reality of the cross of Christ I am an ambassador of forgiveness.

I hope this helps.

Vernell Johnson Sr.
Last edited:
So first, the verse isn't a systematic formula for salvation:

"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

We forgive because we are forgiven. If we refuse to forgive others, then we are living in unrepentant sin. Our salvation / justification is not prerequisite on us getting our lives in order first. In order to save ourselves, we would have to be 100% perfect all the time. Unfortunately we are already born sinful & unclean because of the sin we inherit from Adam.

We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross.

Also, take into consideration that it's Lutherans on the podcast. When Lutheran's say they go down to church and receive forgiveness, they're not talking about salvation. Lutherans believe that Christ calls Christians to live a life of constant repentance and forgiveness.

In church every week, as a Lutheran, we repent of our sins and receive forgiveness.

"Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your holy name. Amen."

That's not a resalvation experience. It's renewal. I'm struggling with how to explain it. I'll need to research to give you a better explanation.

At the point when we are initially saved, we are not saved by a work or decision that we make. No one goes to the Father except through Christ. No one comes to Christ unless he is drawn (dragged) by the Father.

And then that's the point where a Lutheran and a Calvinist would go their separate ways. I'm not going to get into what Calvinists believe because that's a another massive topic.

Lutherans believe that we do not choose salvation. We are savd by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. Faith does not come from us, but is given to us by God. However, we can willfully & stubbornly turn our back on God and choose to reject salvation.

As someone already pointed out in the thread, there's a difference in an inability to do something and a conscious willful decision. If someone says, "I refuse to forgive that person", that's a case of someone living in unrepentant sin. As another example: I have a cousin who is gay. In his case, he rejects Christianity (he's into Buddhism) and is unrepentant in his sins.

That's different from a Christian who struggles with a sin, but repents and asks God for forgiveness and strength. For example, a Christian who struggles with pornography. Maybe he messes up and looks at something he knows he shouldn't, but then feels remorse. He doesn't immediately stop being a Christian. He needs to confess his sin before God and receive forgiveness. He is not immediately cut off from God...but if he continues to live in unrepentant sin, he runs the risk of having his heart hardened and he could reject God.

....and I'm struggling to explain that too. Will need to do a bit of research, pray, think, etc.
Salvation deals with relationship. Repentance deals with communication.

When we receive salvation, we are adopted (and born) into God's family. This is a relationship that we can not alter and one that never fails. Once in we are always in.

Communication can falter and fail. When we sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit. We also lose that communication with the Father. The only communication we can receive is the prodding of the Holy Spirit telling us what we did is wrong and that we need to repent of it. That repentance can be in the form of forgiving others. As long as we harbor unforgivness in our hearts we are disobedient to God. Sin is disobedience to God. Until we forgive others we are out of fellowship with God because of the unrepentant sin in our lives.

When my daughter does something wrong and I must punish her for it, we lose the sweet Father/Daughter fellowship. She is still my daughter and always will be but we do not have the fellowship we had before the incident. Once she is sorry for her disobedience we can have that fellowship again.

Quick short answer.
Ok. This requires reading to gain wisdom and knowledge. All disciples of Christ study God's word and reading is required and answers to questions such as this require in-depth study.

This is from The Sword Project. One of the included Sermons on Gospel Themes is the great Charles G. Finney (1792-1875)

I found this last night and read for 3 hrs. This is going to explain what your seeking. I can only implore you to read and meditate on what you have read. The Holy Spirit can and will open your spirit eyes and reveal the answer to your original question. This is meaty, not babies milk.

I know that they must have used a digital reader to scan the pages of the book used, and some typos exist. I will not change anything, but copy and paste as is. Take it slow, and keep reading at least 1 part per day.

Author of "Lectures on Revivals of Religion,"
"Lectures to Professing Christians," etc.


These sermons were preached by Pres. Finney at Oberlin during the years 1845-1861, and reported from his lips by myself. In taking these reports I aimed to give the heads of the sermons and all the important statements verbatim, to retain always the substance of thought, and especially to seize upon the illustrations and present their essential points. Taken down in a species of short-hand, they were subsequently written out, and in every case read to Pres. Finney in his study for any corrections he might desire, and for his endorsement. Consequently these reports present truthfully the great doctrines preached, and in good measure it is believed the method and manner of his preaching.
Few preachers in any age have surpassed Pres. Finney in clear and well-defined views of conscience, and of man's moral convictions; few have been more fully at home in the domain of law and government; few have learned more of the spiritual life from experience and from observation; not many have discriminated the true from the false more closely, or have been more skillful in putting their points clearly and pungently. Hence, these sermons under God were full of spiritual power. They are given to the public in this form, in the hope that at least a measure of the same wholesome saving power may never fail to bless the reader.



"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."-John 3:16
Sin is the most expensive thing in the universe. Nothing else can cost so much. Pardoned or unpardoned, its cost is infinitely great. Pardoned, the cost falls chiefly on the great atoning Substitute; unpardoned, it must fall on the head of the guilty sinner.
The existence of sin is a fact everywhere experienced -- everywhere observed. There is sin in our race everywhere and in awful aggravation.
Sin is the violation of an infinitely important law -- a law designed and adapted to secure the highest good of the universe. Obedience to this law is naturally essential to the good of creatures. Without obedience there could be no blessedness even in heaven.
As sin is a violation of a most important law, it cannot be treated lightly. No government can afford to treat disobedience as a trifle, inasmuch as everything -- the entire welfare of the government and of all the governed -- turns upon obedience. Just in proportion to the value of the interests at stake is the necessity of guarding law and of punishing disobedience.
The law of God must not be dishonoured by anything He shall do. It has been dishonoured by the disobedience of man; hence, the more need that God should stand by it, to retrieve its honour. The utmost dishonour is done to law by disowning, disobeying, and despising it, All this, sinning man has done. Hence, this law being not only good, but intrinsically necessary to the happiness of the governed, it becomes of all things most necessary that the law-giver should vindicate his law. He must by all means do it.
Hence, sin has involved God's government in a vast expense. Either the law must be executed at the expense of the wellbeing of the whole race, or God must submit to suffer the worst results of disrespect to His law -- results which in some form must involve a vast expense.
Take for example any human government. Suppose the righteous and necessary laws which it imposes are disowned and dishonoured. In such a case the violated law must be honoured by the execution of its penalty, or something else not less expensive, and probably much more so, must be endured. Transgression must cost happiness, somewhere, and in vast amount.
In the case of God's government it has been deemed advisable to provide a substitute -- one that should answer the purpose of saving the sinner, and yet of honouring the law. This being determined on, the next great question was -- How shall the expense be met?
The Bible informs us how the question was in fact decided. By a voluntary conscription -- shall I call it -- or donation? Call it as we may, it was a voluntary offering. Who shall head the subscription? Who shall begin where so much is to be raised? Who will make the first sacrifice? Who will take the first step in a project so vast? The Bible informs us. It began with the Infinite Father. He made the first great donation. He gave His only begotten Son -- this to begin with -- and having given Him first, He freely gives all else that the exigencies of the case can require. First, He gave His Son to make the atonement due to law; then gave and sent His Holy Spirit to take charge of this work. The Son on His part consented to stand as the representative, of sinners, that, He might honour the law, by suffering in their stead. He poured out His blood, made a whole life of suffering a free donation on the altar -- withheld not His face from spitting, nor His back from stripes -- shrunk not from the utmost contumely that wicked men could heap on Him. So the Holy Ghost also devotes Himself to most self-denying efforts unceasingly, to accomplish the great object.
It would have been a very short method to have turned over His hand upon the wicked of our race, and sent them all down quick to hell, as once He did when certain angels "kept not their first estate." Rebellion broke out in heaven. Not long did God bear it, around His lofty throne. But in the case of man He changed His course -- did not send them all to hell, but devised a vast scheme of measures, involving most amazing self-denials and self-sacrifices, to gain men's souls back to obedience and heaven.
For whom was this great donation made? "God so loved the World," meaning the whole race of men. By the "world in this connection cannot be meant any particular part only, but the whole race. Not only the Bible, but the nature of the case, shows that the atonement must have been made for the whole world. For plainly if it had not been made for the entire race, no man of the race could ever know that it was made for himself, and therefore not a man could believe on Christ in the sense of receiving by faith the blessings of the atonement. There being an utter uncertainty as to the persons embraced in the limited provisions which we now suppose to be made, the entire donation must fail through the impossibility of rational faith for its reception. Suppose a will is made by a rich man bequeathing certain property to certain unknown persons, described only by the name of "the elect." They are not described otherwise than by this term, and all agree that although the maker of the will had the individuals definitely in his mind, yet that he left no description of them, which either the persons themselves, the courts, nor any living mortal can understand. Now such a will is of necessity altogether null and void. No living man can claim under such a will, and none the better though these elect were described as residents of Oberlin. Since it does not embrace all the residents of Oberlin, and does not define which of them, all is lost. All having an equal claim and none any definite claim, none can inherit. If the atonement were made in this way, no living man would have any valid reason for believing himself one of the elect, prior to his reception of the Gospel. Hence he would have no authority to believe and receive its blessings by faith. In fact, the atonement must be wholly void -- on this supposition -- unless a special revelation is made to the persons for whom it is intended.
As the case is, however, the very fact that a man belongs to the race of Adam -- the fact that he is human, born of woman, is all-sufficient. It brings him within the pale. He is one of the world for whom God gave His Son, that whosoever would believe in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.
The subjective motive in the mind of God for this great gift was love, love to the world. God so loved the world that He gave His Son to die for it. God loved the universe also but this gift of His Son sprang from love to our world. True in this great act He took pains to provide for the interests of the universe. He was careful to do nothing that could in the least let down the sacredness of His law. Most carefully did He intend to guard against misapprehension as to His regard for His law and for the high interests of obedience and happiness in his moral universe. He meant once for all to preclude the danger lest any moral agent should be tempted to undervalue the moral law.
Yet farther, it was not only from love to souls, but from respect to the spirit of the law of His own eternal reason, that He gave up His Son to die. In this the purpose to give up His Son originated. The law of His own reason must be honoured and held sacred. He may do nothing inconsistent with its spirit. He must do everything possible to prevent the commission of sin and to secure the confidence and love of His subjects. So sacred did He hold these great objects that He would baptize His Son in His own blood, sooner than peril the good of the universe. Beyond a question it was love and regard for the highest good of the universe that led Him to sacrifice His own beloved Son.
Let us next consider attentively the nature of this love. The text lays special stress on this -- God so loved -- His love was of such a nature, so wonderful and so peculiar in its character, that it led Him to give up His only Son to die. More is evidently implied in this expression than simply its greatness. It is most peculiar in its character. Unless we understand this, we shall be in danger of falling into the strange mistake of the Universalists, who are forever talking about God's love for sinners, but whose notions of the nature of this love never lead to repentance or to holiness. They seem to think of this love as simply good nature, and conceive of God only as a very good-natured being, whom nobody need to fear. Such notions have not the least influence towards holiness, but the very opposite. It is only when we come to understand what this love is in its nature that we feel its moral power promoting holiness.
It may be reasonably asked, If God so loved the world with a love characterized by greatness, and by greatness only, why did He not save all the world without sacrificing His Son? This question suffices to show us that there is deep meaning in this word so, and should put us upon a careful study of this meaning.
1. This love in its nature is not complacency -- a delight in the character of the race. This could not be, for there was nothing amiable in their character. For God to have loved such a race complacently would have been infinitely disgraceful to Himself.
2. It was not a mere emotion or feeling. It was not a blind impulse, though many seem to suppose it was. It seems to be often supposed that God acted as men do when they are borne away by strong emotion. But there could be no virtue in this. A man might give away all he is worth under such a blind impulse of feeling, and be none the more virtuous. But in saying this we do not exclude all emotion from the love of benevolence, nor from God's love for a lost world. He had emotion, but not emotion only. Indeed, the Bible everywhere teaches us that God's love for man, lost in his sins, was paternal -- the love of a father for his offspring -- in this case, for a rebellious, froward, prodigal offspring. In this love there must of course blend the deepest compassion.
3. On the part of Christ, considered as Mediator, this love was fraternal. "He is not ashamed to call them brethren." In one point of view, He is acting for brethren, and in another for children. The Father gave Him up for this work and of course sympathizes in the love appropriate to its relations.
4. This love must be altogether disinterested, for He had nothing to hope or to fear -- no profit to make out of His children if they should be saved. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive of God as being selfish, since His love embraces all creatures and all interests according to their real value. No doubt He took delight in saving our race -- why should He not? It is a great salvation in every sense, and greatly does it swell the bliss of heaven -- greatly will it affect the glory and the blessedness of the Infinite God. He will eternally respect Himself for love so disinterested. He knows also that all His Holy creatures will eternally respect Him for this work and for the love that gave it birth. But let it also be said, He knew they would not respect Him for this great work unless they should see that He did it for the good of sinners.
5. This love was zealous -- not that cold-hearted state of mind which some suppose -- not an abstraction, but a love deep, zealous, earnest, burning in his soul as a fire that nothing can quench.
6. The sacrifice was a most self-denying one. Did it cost the Father nothing to give up His own beloved Son to suffer, and to die such a death? If this be not self-denial, what can be? Thus to give up His Son to so much suffering -- is not this the noblest self-denial? The universe never could have the idea of great self-denial but for such an exemplification.
7. This love was particular because it was universal; and also universal because it was particular. God loved each sinner in particular, and therefore loved all. Because He loved all impartially, with no respect of persons, therefore He loved each in particular.
8. This was a most patient love. How rare to find a parent so loving his child as never to be impatient. Let me go round and ask, how many of you, parents, can say that you love all your children so well, and with so much love, and with love so wisely controlling, that you have never felt impatient towards any of them -- so that you can take them in your arms under the greatest provocations and love them down, love them out of their sins, love them into repentance and into a filial spirit? Of which of your children can you say, Thank God, I never fretted against that child -- of which, if you were to meet him in heaven, could you say, I never caused that child to fret? Often have I heard parents say, I love my children, but oh, how my patience fails me! And, after the dear ones are dead, you may hear their bitter moans, Oh, my soul, how could I have caused my child so much stumbling and so much sin!
But God never frets -- is never impatient. His love is so deep and so great that He is always patient.
Sometimes, when parents have unfortunate children -- poor objects of compassion -- they can bear with anything from them; but when they are very wicked, they seem to feel that they are quite excusable for being impatient. In God's case, these are not unfortunate children, but are intensely wicked -- intelligently wicked. But oh, His amazing patience -- so set upon their good, so desirous of their highest welfare, that however they abuse Him, He sets Himself to bless them still, and weep them down, and melt them into penitence and love, by the death of His Son in their stead!
9. This is a jealous love, not in a bad sense, but in a good sense -- in the sense of being exceedingly careful lest anything should occur to injure those He loves. Just as husband and wife who truly love each other are jealous with ever wakeful jealousy over each other's welfare, seeking always to do all they can to promote each other's true interests.
This donation is already made -- made in good faith -- not only promised, but actually made. The promise, given long before, has been fulfilled. The Son has come, has died, has made the ransom and lives to offer it -- a prepared salvation to all who will embrace it.
The Son of God died not to appease vengeance, as some seem to understand it, but under the demands of law. The law had been dishonoured by its violation. Hence, Christ undertook to honour it by giving up to its demands His suffering life and atoning death. It was not to appease a vindictive spirit in God, but to secure the highest good of the universe in a dispensation of mercy.
Since this atonement has been made, all men in the race have a right to it. It is open to every one who will embrace it. Though Jesus still remains the Father's Son, yet by gracious right He belongs in an important sense to the race -- to everyone; so that every sinner has an interest in His blood if he will only come humbly forward and claim it. God sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world -- of whomsoever would believe and accept this great salvation.
God gives His Spirit to apply this salvation to men. He comes to each man's door and knocks, to gain admittance, if He can, and show each sinner that he may now have salvation. Oh, what a labour of love is this!
This salvation must be received, if at all, by faith. This is the only possible way. God's government over sinners is moral, not physical, because the sinner is himself a moral and not a physical agent. Therefore, God can influence us in no way unless we will give Him our confidence. He never can save us by merely taking us away to some place called heaven -- as if change of place would change the voluntary heart. There can, therefore, be no possible way to be saved but by simple faith.
'Now do not mistake and suppose that embracing the Gospel is simply to believe these historical facts without truly receiving Christ as your Saviour. If this had been the scheme, then Christ had need only to come down and die; then go back to heaven and quietly wait to see who would believe the facts. But how different is the real case! Now Christ comes down to fill the soul with His own life and love. Penitent sinners hear and believe the truth concerning Jesus, and then receive Christ into the soul to live and reign there supreme and for ever. On this point many mistake, saying, If I believe the facts as matters of history it is enough. No! No! This is not it by any means. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." The atonement was indeed made to provide the way so that Jesus could come down to human hearts and draw them into union and sympathy with Himself -- so that God could let down the arms of His love and embrace sinners -- so that law and government should not be dishonoured by such tokens of friendship shown by God toward sinners. But the atonement will by no means save sinners only as it prepares the way for them to come into sympathy and fellowship of heart with God.
Now Jesus comes to each sinner's door and knocks. Hark! what's that? what's that? Why this knocking? Why did He not go away and stay in heaven if that were the system, till men should simply believe the historical facts and be baptized, as some suppose, for salvation. But now, see how He comes down -- tells the sinner what He has done -- reveals all His love -- tells him how holy and sacred it is, so sacred that He can by no means act without reference to the holiness of His law and the purity of His government. Thus impressing on the heart the most deep and enlarged ideas of His holiness and purity, He enforces the need of deep repentance and the sacred duty of renouncing all sin.

1. The Bible teaches that sinners may forfeit their birthright and put themselves beyond the reach of mercy. It is not long since I made some remark to you on the manifest necessity that God should guard Himself against the abuses of His love. The circumstances are such as create the greatest danger of such abuse, and, therefore, He must make sinners know that they may not abuse His love, and cannot do it with impunity.
2. Under the Gospel, sinners are in circumstances of the greatest possible responsibility. They are in the utmost danger of trampling down beneath their feet the very Son of God. Come, they say, let us kill Him and the inheritance shall be ours. When God sends forth, last of all, His own beloved Son, what do they do? Add to all their other sins and rebellions the highest insult to this glorious Son! Suppose something analogous to this were done under a human government. A case of rebellion occurs in some of the provinces. The king sends his own son, not with an army, to cut them down quick in their rebellion, but all gently, meekly, patiently, he goes among them, explaining the laws of the kingdom and exhorting them to obedience. What do they do in the case? With one consent they combine to seize him and put him to death!
But you deny the application of this, and ask me, Who murdered the Son of God? Were they not Jews? Aye, and have you, sinners, had no part in this murder? Has not your treatment of Jesus Christ shown that you are most fully in sympathy with the ancient Jews in their murder of the Son of God? If you had been there, would any one have shouted louder than you, Away with Him -- crucify Him, crucify Him? Have you not always said, Depart from us -- for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways?
3. It was said of Christ that, Though rich He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich. How strikingly true is this? Our redemption cost Christ His life; it found Him rich, but made Him poor; it found us infinitely poor, but made us rich even to all the wealth of heaven. But of these riches none can partake till they shall each for himself accept them in the legitimate way. They must be received on the terms proposed, or the offer passes utterly away, and you are left poorer even than if no such treasures had ever been laid at your feet.
Many persons seem entirely to misconceive this case. They seem not to believe what God says, but keep saying, If, if, if there only were any salvation for me -- if there were only an atonement provided for the pardon of my sins. This was one of the last things that was cleared up in my mind before I fully committed my soul to trust God. I had been studying the atonement; I saw its philosophical bearings -- saw what it demanded of the sinner; but it irritated me, and I said -- If I should become a Christian, how could I know what God would do with me? Under this irritation I said foolish and bitter things against Christ -- till my own soul was horrified at its own wickedness, and I said -- I will make all this up with Christ if the thing is possible.
In this way many advance upon the encouragements of the Gospel as if it were only a peradventure, an experiment. They take each forward step most carefully, with fear and trembling, as if there were the utmost doubt whether there could be any mercy for them. So with myself. I was on my way to my office, when the question came before my mind -- What are you waiting for? You need not get up such an ado. All is done already. You have only to consent to the proposition -- give your heart right up to it at once -- this is all. Just so it is. All Christians and sinners ought to understand that the whole plan is complete -- that the whole of Christ -- His character, His work, His atoning death, and His ever-living intercession -- belong to each and every man, and need only to be accepted. There is a full ocean of it. There it is. You may just as well take it as not. It is as if you stood on the shore of an ocean of soft, pure water, famishing with thirst; you are welcome to drink, and you need not fear lest you exhaust that ocean, or starve anybody else by drinking yourself. You need not feel that you are not made free to that ocean of waters; you are invited and pressed to drink -- yea to drink abundantly! This ocean supplies all your need. You do not need to have in yourself the attributes of Jesus Christ, for His attributes become practically yours for all possible use. As saith the Scripture -- He is of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. What do you need? Wisdom? Here it is. Righteousness? Here it is. Sanctification? Here you have it. All is in Christ. Can you possibly think of any one thing needful for your moral purity, or your usefulness which is not here in Christ? Nothing. All is provided here. Therefore you need not say, I will go and pray and try, as the hymn,
"I'll go to Jesus tho' my sin

Hath like a mountain rose,

Perhaps He will admit my plea

Perhaps will hear my prayer."

There is no need of any perhaps. The doors are always open. Like the doors of Broadway Tabernacle in New York, made to swing open and fasten themselves open, so that they could not swing back and shut down upon the crowds of people thronging to pass through. When they were to be made, I went myself to the workmen and told them by all means to fix them so that they must swing open and fasten themselves in that position.
So the door of salvation is open always -- fastened open, and no man can shut it -- not the Pope, even, nor the devil, nor any angel from heaven or from hell. There it stands, all swung back and the passage wide open for every sinner of our race to enter if he will.
Again, sin is the most expensive thing in the universe. Are you well aware, O sinner, what a price has been paid for you that you may be redeemed and made an heir of God and of heaven? O what an expensive business for you to indulge in sin.
And what an enormous tax the government of God has paid to redeem this province from its ruin! Talk about the poor tax of Great Britain and of all other nations superadded; all is nothing to the sin-tax of Jehovah's government -- that awful sin-tax! Think how much machinery is kept in motion to save sinners! The Son of God was sent down -- angels are sent as ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation; missionaries are sent, Christians labour, and pray and weep in deep and anxious solicitude -- all to seek and save the lost. What a wonderful-enormous tax is levied upon the benevolence of the universe to put away sin and to save the sinner! If the cost could be computed in solid gold what a world of it -- a solid globe of itself! What an array of toil and cost, from angels, Jesus Christ, the Divine Spirit, and living men Shame on sinners who hold on to sin despite of all these benevolent efforts to save them! who instead of being ashamed out of sin, will say -- Let God pay off this tax; who cares! Let the missionaries labour, let pious women work their very fingers off to raise funds to keep all this human machinery in motion; no matter: what is all this to me? I have loved my pleasures and after them I will go! What an unfeeling heart is this
Sinners can very well afford to make sacrifices to save their fellow sinners. Paul could for his fellow sinners. He felt that he had done his part toward making sinners, and now it became him to do his part also in converting them back to God. But see there -- that young man thinks he cannot afford to be a minister, for he is afraid he shall not be well supported. Does he not owe something to the grace that saved his soul from hell? Has he not some sacrifices to make, since Jesus has made so many for him, and Christians too, in Christ before him -- did they not pray and suffer and toil for his soul's salvation? As to his danger of lacking bread in the Lord's work, let him trust his Great Master. Yet let me also say that churches may be in great fault for not comfortably supporting their pastors. Let them know God will assuredly starve them if they starve their ministers. Their own souls and the souls of their children shall be barren as death if they avariciously starve those whom God in His providence sends to feed them with the bread of life.
How much it costs to rid society of certain forms of sin, as for example, slavery. How much has been expended already, and how much more yet remains to be expended ere this sore evil and curse and sin shall be rooted from our land! This is part of God's great enterprise, and He will press it on to its completion. Yet at what an amazing cost! How many lives and how much agony to get rid of this one sin!
Woe to those who make capital out of the sins of men! Just think of the rumseller -- tempting men while God is trying to dissuade them from rushing on in the ways of sin and death! Think of the guilt of those who thus set themselves in array against God! So Christ has to contend with rumsellers who are doing all they can to hinder His work.
Our subject strikingly illustrates the nature of sin as mere selfishness. It cares not how much sin costs Jesus Christ -- how much it costs the Church, how much it taxes the benevolent sympathies and the self-sacrificing labours of all the good in earth or heaven; no matter; the sinner loves self-indulgence and will have it while he can. How many of you have cost your friends countless tears and trouble to get you back from your ways of sin? Are you not ashamed when so much has been done for you, that you cannot be persuaded to give up your sins and turn to God and holiness?
The whole effort on the part of God for man is one of suffering and self-denial. Beginning with the sacrifice of His own beloved Son, it is carried on with ever renewed sacrifices and toilsome labours -- at great and wonderful expense. Just think how long a time these efforts have been protracted already -- how many tears, poured out like water, it has cost -- how much pain in many forms this enterprise has caused and cost -- yea, that very sin which you roll as a sweet morsel under your tongue! God may well hate it when He sees how much it costs, and say -- O do not that abominable thing that I hate!
Yet God is not unhappy in these self-denials. So great is His joy in the results, that He deems all the suffering but comparatively a trifle, even as earthly parents enjoy the efforts they make to bless their children. See them; they will almost work their very hands off; mothers sit up at night to ply their needle till they reel with fatigue and blindness; but if you were to see their toil, you would often see also their joy, so intensely do they love their children.
Such is the labour, the joy, and the self-denial of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, in their great work for human salvation. Often are they grieved that so many will refuse to be saved. Toiling on in a common sympathy, there is nothing, within reasonable limits, which they will not do or suffer to accomplish their great work. It is wonderful to think how all creation sympathizes, too, in this work and its necessary sufferings. Go back to the scene of Christ's sufferings. Could the sun in the heavens look down unmoved on such a scene? O no, he could not even behold it -- but veiled his face from the sight! All nature seemed to put on her robes of deepest mourning. The scene was too much for even inanimate nature to bear. The sun turned his back and could not look down on such a spectacle!
The subject illustrates forcibly the worth of the soul. Think you God would have done all this if He had had those low views on this subject which sinners usually have?
Martyrs and saints enjoy their sufferings -- filling up in themselves what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ; not in the atonement proper, but in the subordinate parts of the work to be done. It is the nature of true religion to love self-denial.
The results will fully justify all the expense. God had well counted the cost before He began. Long time before He formed a moral universe He knew perfectly what it must cost Him to redeem sinners, and He knew that the result would amply justify all the cost. He knew that a wonder of mercy would be wrought -- that the suffering demanded of Christ, great as it was, would be endured; and that results infinitely glorious would accrue therefrom. He looked down the track of time into the distant ages -- where, as the cycles rolled along, there might be seen the joys of redeemed saints, who are singing their songs and striking their harps anew with the everlasting song, through the long long, LONG eternity of their blessedness; and was not this enough for the heart of infinite love to enjoy? And what do you think of it, Christian? Will you say now, I am ashamed to ask to be forgiven? How can I bear to receive such mercy! It is the price of blood, and how can I accept it? How can I make Jesus so much expense?
You are right in saying that you have cost Him great expense -- but the expense has been cheerfully met -- the pain has all been endured, and will not need to be endured again, and it will cost none the more if you accept than if you decline; and moreover still, let it be considered Jesus Christ has not acted unwisely; He did not pay too much for the soul's redemption -- not a pang more than the interests of God's government demanded and the worth of the soul would justify.
O, when you come to see Him face to face, and tell Him what you think of it -- when you are some thousands of years older than you are now, will you not adore that wisdom that manages this scheme, and the infinite love in which it had its birth? O what will you then say of that amazing condescension that brought down Jesus to your rescue! Say, Christian, have you not often poured out your soul before your Saviour in acknowledgment of what you have cost Him, and there seemed to be a kind of lifting up as if the very bottom of your soul were to rise, and you would pour out your whole heart. If anybody had seen you they would have wondered what had happened to you that had so melted your soul in gratitude and love.
Say now, sinners will you sell your birthright? How much will you take for it? How much will you take for your interest in Christ? For how much will you sell your soul? Sell your Christ! Of old they sold Him for thirty pieces of silver; and ever since, the heavens have been raining tears of blood on our guilty world. If you were to be asked by the devil to fix the sum for which you would sell your soul, what would be the price named? Lorenzo Dow once met a man as he was riding along a solitary road to fulfil an appointment, and said to him -- Friend, have you ever prayed? No. How much will you take never to pray hereafter? One dollar. Dow paid it over, and rode on. The man put the money in his pocket, and passed on, thinking. The more he thought, the worse he felt. There, said he, I have sold my soul for one dollar! It must be that I have met the devil! Nobody else would tempt me so. With all my soul I must repent, or be damned forever!
How often have you bargained to sell your Saviour for less than thirty pieces of silver! Nay, for the merest trifle!
Finally, God wants volunteers to help on this great work. God has given Himself, and given His Son, and sent His Spirit; but more labourers still are needed; and what will you give? Paul said, I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Do you aspire to such an honour? What will you do -- what will you suffer? Say not, I have nothing to give. You can give yourself -- your eyes, your ears, your hands, your mind, your heart, all; and surely nothing you have is too sacred and too good to be devoted to such a work upon such a call! How many young men are ready to go? and how many young women? Whose heart leaps up, crying, Here am I! send me?
Last edited:
Part 2
Author of "Lectures on Revivals of Religion,"
"Lectures to Professing Christians," etc.

"I will trust in the mercy of God forever and ever."-Ps. 52:8.
IN discussing this subject I shall enquire,
I. What mercy is.
II. What is implied in trusting in the mercy of the Lord forever.
III. Point out the conditions on which we may safely trust in God's mercy.
IV. Allude to several mistakes which are made on this subject


I. What Mercy is.
1.Mercy as an attribute of God, is not to be confounded with mere goodness. This mistake is often made. That it is a mistake, you will see at once if you consider that mercy is directly opposed to justice, while yet justice is one of the natural and legitimate developments of goodness. Goodness may demand the exercise of justice; indeed it often does; but to say that mercy demands the exercise of justice, is to use the word without meaning. Mercy asks that justice be set aside. Of course mercy and goodness stand in very different relations to justice, and are very different attributes.
2. Mercy is a disposition to pardon the guilty. Its exercise consists in arresting and setting aside the penalty of law, when that penalty has been incurred by transgression. It is, as has been said, directly opposed to justice. justice treats every individual according to his deserts; mercy treats the criminal very differently from what he deserves to be treated. Desert is never the rule by which mercy is guided while it is precisely the rule of justice.
3. Mercy is exercised only where there is guilt. It always pre-supposes guilt. The penalty of the law must have been previously incurred, else there can be no scope for mercy.
4. Mercy can be exercised no farther than one deserves punishment. It may continue its exercise just as long as punishment is deserved, but no longer; just as far as ill desert goes, but no farther. If great punishment is deserved, great mercy can be shown; if endless punishment is due, there is then scope for infinite mercy to be shown, but not otherwise.

/II. ON TRUSTING IN THE MERCY OF GOD. / II. I am to show what is implied in trusting in the mercy of God. :
II. I am to show what is implied in trusting in the mercy of God.
1. A conviction of guilt. None can properly be said to trust in the mercy of God unless they have committed crimes, and are conscious of this fact. justice protects the innocent, and they may safely appeal to it for defence or redress. But for the guilty nothing remains but to trust in mercy. Trusting in mercy always implies a deep, heartfelt conviction of personal guilt.
2. Trust in mercy -- always implies that we have no hope on the score of justice. If we had anything to expect from justice, we should not look to mercy. The human heart is too proud to throw itself upon mercy while it presumes itself to have a valid claim to favor on the score of justice. Nay more, to appeal to mercy when we might rightfully appeal to justice is never demanded either by God's law or gospel, nor can it be in harmony with our relations to Jehovah's government. In fact, the thing is, in the very nature of the mind, impossible.
3. Trust in mercy implies a just apprehension of what mercy is. On this point many fail because they confound mercy with mere goodness, or with grace, considered as mere favor to the undeserving. The latter may be shown where there is no mercy, the term mercy being applied to the pardon of crime. We all know that God shows favor, or grace in the general sense, to all the wicked on earth. He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends His rain on the unjust as well as on the just. But to trust in this general favor shown to the wicked while on trial here is not trusting in the mercy of God. We never trust in mercy till we really understand what it is -- pardon for the crimes of the guilty.
4. Trust in God's mercy implies a belief that He is merciful. We could not trust Him if we had no such belief. This belief must always lie at the foundation of real trust. Indeed, so naturally does this belief beget that out-going of the soul and resting upon God which we call trust, that in the New Testament sense it commonly includes both. Faith, or belief, includes a hearty committal of the soul to God, and a cordial trust in Him.
5. "Trusting in the mercy of God forever and ever" implies a conviction of deserving endless punishment. Mercy is co-extensive with desert of punishment, and can in its nature go no farther. It is rational to rely upon the exercise of mercy for as long time as we deserve punishment, but no longer. A prisoner under a three years' sentence to State's prison may ask for the exercise of mercy in the form of pardon for so long a time; but he will not ask a pardon for ten years when he needs it only for three, or ask a pardon after his three years' term has expired. This principle is perfectly obvious; where desert of punishment ceases, there mercy also ceases and our trust in it. While desert of punishment continues, so may mercy, and our trust in its exercise. When therefore the Psalmist trusts in the mercy of God forever, he renounces all hope of being ever received to favor on the score of justice.
6. Trusting in mercy implies a cessation from all excuses and excuse-making. The moment you trust in mercy, you give up all apologies and excuses at once and entirely; for these imply a reliance upon God's justice. An excuse or apology is nothing more nor less than an appeal to justice; a plea designed to justify our conduct. Trusting in mercy forever implies that we have ceased from all excuses forever.
Thus a man on trial before a civil court, so long as he pleads justifications and excuses, appeals to justice; but if he goes before the court and pleads guilty, offering no justification or apology whatever, he throws himself upon the clemency of the court. This is quite another thing from self-justification. It sometimes happens that in the same trial, the accused party tries both expedients. He first attempts his own defense; but finding this vain, he shifts his position, confesses his crime and ill desert, and throws himself upon the mercy of the court. Perhaps he begs the court to commend him to the mercy of the executive in whom is vested the pardoning power.
Now it is always understood that when a man pleads guilty he desists from making excuses, and appeals only to mercy. So in any private matter with my neighbor. If I justify myself fully, I surely have no confession to make. But if I am conscious of having done him wrong, I freely confess my wrong, and appeal to mercy. Self-justification stands right over against confession.
So in parental discipline. If your child sternly justifies himself, he makes no appeal to mercy. But the moment when he casts himself upon your bosom with tears, and says, I am all wrong, he ceases to make excuses, and trusts himself to mercy. So in the government of God. Trust in mercy is a final giving up of all reliance upon justice. You have no more excuses; you make none.

/II. ON TRUSTING IN THE MERCY OF GOD. / III. We must next consider the conditions upon which we may confidently and securely trust in the mercy of God forever. :

III. We must next consider the conditions upon which we may confidently and securely trust in the mercy of God forever.
1. Public justice must be appeased. Its demands must be satisfied. God is a great public magistrate, sustaining infinitely responsible relations to the moral universe. He must be careful what He does.
Perhaps no measure of government is more delicate and difficult in its bearings than the exercise of mercy. It is a most critical point. There is eminent danger of making the impression that mercy would trample down law. The very thing that mercy does is to set aside the execution of the penalty of law; the danger is lest this should seem to set aside the law itself. The great problem is, How can the law retain its full majesty, the execution of its penalty being entirely withdrawn? This is always a difficult and delicate matter.
In human governments we often see great firmness exercised by the magistrate. During the scenes of the American Revolution, Washington was earnestly importuned to pardon André. The latter was eminently an amiable, lovely man; and his case excited a deep sympathy in the American army. Numerous and urgent petitions were made to Washington in his behalf; but no, Washington could not yield. They besought him to see André, in hope that a personal interview might touch his heart; but he refused even to see him. He dared not trust his own feelings. He felt that this was a great crisis, and that a nation's welfare was in peril. Hence his stem, unyielding decision. It was not that he lacked compassion of soul. He had a heart to feel. But under the circumstances, he knew too well that no scope must be given to the indulgence of his tender sympathies. He dared not gratify these feelings, lest a nation's ruin should be the penalty.
Such cases have often occurred in human governments when every feeling of the soul is on the side of mercy and makes its strong demand for indulgence; but justice forbids.
Often in family government the parent has an agonizing trial; he would sooner bear the pain himself thrice told than to inflict it upon his son; but interests of perhaps infinite moment are at stake, and must not be put in peril by the indulgence of his compassions.
Now if the exercise of mercy in such cases is difficult how much more so in the government of God? Hence, the first condition of the exercise of mercy is that something be done to meet the demands of public justice. It is absolutely indispensable that law be sustained. However much disposed God may be to pardon, yet He is too good to exercise mercy on any such conditions or under any such circumstances as will impair the dignity of His law, throw out a license to sin, and open the very flood-gates of iniquity. Jehovah never can do this. He knows He never ought to.
On this point it only need be said at present that this difficulty is wholly removed by the atonement of Christ.
2. A second condition is that we repent, Certainly no sinner has the least ground to hope for mercy until he repents. Will God pardon the sinner while yet in his rebellion? Never. To do so would be most unjust in God -- most ruinous to the universe. It would be virtually proclaiming that sin is less than a trifle -- that God cares not how set in wickedness the sinner's heart is; He is ready to take the most rebellious heart, unhumbled, to His own bosom. Before God can do this He must cease to be holy.
3. We must confess our sins. "He that confesseth," and he only, "shall find mercy." Jehovah sustains such relations to the moral universe that He cannot forgive without the sinner's confession. He must have the sinner's testimony against himself and in favor of law and obedience.
Suppose a man convicted and sentenced to be hung. He petitions the governor for pardon, but is too proud to confess, at least in public. "May it please your Honor," he says, "between you and me, I am willing to say that I committed that crime alleged against me, but you must not ask me to make this confession before the world. You will have some regard to my feelings and to the feelings of my numerous and very respectable friends. Before the world there. fore I shall persist in denying the crime. I trust, however, that you will duly consider all the circumstances and grant me a pardon." Pardon you, miscreant, the governor would say -- pardon you when you are condemning the whole court and jury of injustice, and the witnesses of falsehood; pardon you while you set yourself against the whole administration of justice in the State? Never! never! You are too proud to take your own place and appear in your own character; how can I rely on you to be a good citizen -- how can I expect you to be anything better than an arch villain?
Let it be understood, then, that before we can trust in the mercy of God, we must really repent and make our confession as public as we have made our crime.
Suppose again that a man is convicted and sues for pardon, but will not confess at all. O, he says, I have no crimes to confess; I have done nothing particularly wrong; the reason of my acting as I have is that I have a desperately wicked heart. I cannot repent and never could. I don't know how it happens that I commit murder so easily; it seems to be a second nature to me to kill my neighbor; I can't help it. I am told that you are very good, very merciful, he says to the governor; they even say that you are love itself, and I believe it; you surely will grant me a pardon then, it will be so easy for you -- and it is so horrible for me to be hung. You know I have done only a little wrong, and that little only because I could not help it; you certainly cannot insist upon my making any confession. What! have me bung because I don't repent? You certainly are too kind to do any such thing.
I don't thank you for your good opinion of me, must be the indignant reply; the law shall take its course; your path is to the gallows.
See that sinner; hear him mock God in his prayer: "trust in the mercy of God, for God is love." Do you repent?
"I don't know about repentance -- that is not the question God is love -- God is too good to send men to hell; they are Partialists and slander God who think that He ever sends anybody to hell." Too good! you say; too good! so good that He will forgive whether the sinner repents or not; too good to hold the reins of His government firmly; too good to secure the best interests of His vast kingdom! Sinner, the God you think of is a being of your own crazy imagination -- not the God who built the prison of despair for hardened sinners -- not the God who rules the universe by righteous law and our race also on a Gospel system which magnifies that law and makes it honorable.
4. We must really make restitution so far as lies in our power. You may see the bearing of this in the case of a highway robber. He has robbed a traveller of ten thousand dollars, and is sentenced to State's prison for life. He petitions for pardon. Very sorry he is for his crime; will make any confession that can be asked, ever so public; but will he make restitution? Not he; no -- he needs that money himself. He will give up half of it, perhaps, to the government; vastly patriotic is he all at once, and liberal withal; ready to make a donation of five thousand dollars for the public good! ready to consecrate to most benevolent uses a splendid sum of money; but whose money? Where is his justice to the man he has robbed? Wretch! consecrate to the public what you have torn from your neighbor and put it into the treasury of the government! No; such a gift would burn right through the chest! What would you think if the government should connive at such an abomination? You would abhor their execrable corruption.
See that man of the world, His whole business career is a course of over-reaching. He slyly thrusts his hands into his neighbor's pockets and thus fills up his own. His rule is uniformly to sell for more than a thing is worth and buy for less. He knows how to monopolize and make high prices, and then sell out his accumulated stocks. His mind is forever on the stretch to manage and make good bargains. But this man at last must prepare to meet God. So he turns to his money to make it answer all things. He has a large gift for God. Perhaps he will build a church or send a missionary -- something pretty handsome at least to buy a pardon for a life about which his conscience is not very easy. Yes, he has a splendid bribe for God. Ah, but will God take it? Never! God burns with indignation at the thought. Does God want your price of blood -- those gains of oppression? Go and give them back to the suffering poor whose cries have gone up to God against you. O shame to think to filch from thy brother and give to God! Not merely rob Peter to pay Paul, but rob man to pay God! The pardon of your soul is not bought so!
5. Another condition is that you really reform.
Suppose there is a villain in our neighborhood who has become the terror of all the region round about. He has already murdered a score of defenseless women and children; burns down our houses by night; plunders and robs daily; and every day brings tidings of his crimes at which every ear tingles. None feel safe a moment. He is an arch and bloody villain. At last he is arrested, and we all breathe more easily. Peace is restored. But this miscreant having received sentence of death, petitions for pardon. He professes no penitence whatever, and makes not even a promise of amendment; yet the governor is about to give him a free pardon. If be does it, who will not say, He ought to be hung up himself by the neck till he is dead, dead! But what does that sinner say? "I trust," says he, "in the great mercy of God. I have nothing to fear." But does he reform? No. What good can the mercy of God do him if he does not reform?
6. You must go the whole length in justifying the law and its penalty.
Mark that convicted criminal, He doesn't believe that government has any right to take life for any crime; he demurs utterly to the justice of such a proceeding, and on this ground insists that he must have a pardon. Will he get it? Will the governor take a position which is flatly opposed to the very law and constitution which he is sworn to sustain? Will he crush the law to save one criminal, or even a thousand criminals? Not if he has the spirit of a ruler in his bosom. That guilty man if he would have mercy from the Executive must admit the right of the law and of the penalty Else he arrays himself against the law and cannot be trusted in the community.
Now hear that sinner. How much he has to say against his ill desert and against the justice of eternal punishment. He denounces the laws of God as cruelly and unrighteously severe. Sinner, do you suppose God can forgive you while you pursue such a course? He would as soon repeal His law and vacate His throne. You make it impossible for God to forgive you.
7. No sinner can be a proper object of mercy who is not entirely submissive to all those measures of the government that have brought him to conviction,
Suppose a criminal should plead that there had been a conspiracy to waylay and arrest him; that witnesses had been bribed to give false testimony; that the judge had charged the jury falsely, or that the jury had given an unrighteous verdict; could he hope by such false allegations to get a pardon? Nay, verily. Such a man cannot be trusted to sustain law and order in a community, under any government, human or divine.
But hear that sinner complain and cavil. Why, he says, did God suffer sin and temptation to enter this world at all? Why does God let the sinner live at all to incur a doom so dreadful? And why does God block up the sinner's path by His providence, and cut him down in his sins? Yet this very sinner talks about trusting in God's mercy! Indeed; while all the time he is accusing God of being an infinite tyrant, and of seeking to crush the helpless, unfortunate sinner! What do these cavils mean? What are they but the uplifted voice of a guilty rebel arraigning his Maker for doing good and showing mercy to His own rebellious creatures? For it needs but a moment's thought to see that the temptation complained of is only a good placed before a moral agent to melt his heart by love. Yet against this the sinner murmurs, and pours out his complaints against God, Be assured that unless you are willing to go the full length of justifying all God does, He never can give you pardon. God has no option to pardon a self-justifying rebel. The interests of myraids of moral beings forbid His doing it. When you will take the ground most fully of justifying God and condemning yourself, you place yourself where mercy can reach you, and then it surely will. Not before.
8. You must close in most cordially with the plan of salvation. This plan is based on the assumption that we deserve everlasting death and must be saved, if ever, by sovereign grace and mercy. Nothing can save but mercy -- mercy which meets the sinner in the dust, prostrate, without an excuse or an apology, giving to God all the glory and taking to himself all the guilt and shame. There is hope for thee, sinner, in embracing this plan with all the heart.

/II. ON TRUSTING IN THE MERCY OF GOD. / IV. We now notice some mistakes into which many fall. :
IV. We now notice some mistakes into which many fall.
1. Many really trust in justice and not in mercy. They say, "God is just -- God will do me no injustice -- I mean to do as well as I can, and then I can safely leave myself in the hands of a just God." True, God will do you no injustice. You never need fear that. But how terrible if God should do you strict justice! How fearful if you get no mercy! If God does not show you infinite mercy you are forever lost, as surely as you are a sinner! This trusting in God's justice is a fatal rock. The sinner who can do it calmly has never seen God's law and his own heart. The Psalmist did not say, I trust in the justice of God forever and ever.
2. Many trust professedly in the mercy of God without fulfilling the conditions on which only mercy can be shown.
They may hold on in such trusting till they die -- but no longer.
3. Sinners do not consider that God cannot dispense with their fulfilling these conditions. He has no right to do so.
They spring out of the very constitution of His government, from His very nature, and must therefore be strictly fulfilled. Sooner than dispense with their fulfillment, God would send the whole race, yea, the whole universe, to hell If God were to set aside these conditions and forgive a sinner while unhumbled, impenitent, and unbelieving, He would upset His throne, convulse the moral universe, and kindle another hell in His own bosom.
4. Many are defeating their own salvation by self-justification. Pleas that excuse self, and cavils that arraign God, stand alike and fatally in the way of pardon. Since the world began it has not been known that a sinner has found mercy in this state.
5. Many pretend to trust in mercy who yet profess to be punished for their sins as they go along. They hope for salvation through mercy, and yet they are punished for all their sins in this life. Two more absurd and self-contradictory things were never put together. Punished as much as they deserve here, and yet saved through mercy! Why don't they say it out that they shall be saved after death through justice? Surely if they are punished all they deserve as they go along, justice will ask no more after death.
6. Persons who in the letter plead for mercy, often rely really upon justice. The deep conviction of sin and ill-desert does not sink into their soul till they realize what mercy is, and feel that they can rely on nothing else.
7. Some are covering up their sins, yet dream of going to heaven. Do they think they can hide those sins from the Omniscient Eye? Do they think to cover their sins and yet it prosper," despite of God's awful word?
8. We cannot reasonably ask for mercy beyond our acknowledged and felt guilt; and they mistake fatally who suppose that they can. Without a deep conviction of conscious guilt we cannot be honest and in earnest in supplicating mercy. Hear that man pray who thinks sin a trifle and its deserved punishment a small affair. "O Lord, I need a little mercy, only a little; my sins have been few and of small account; grant me, Lord, exemption from the brief and slight punishment which my few errors and defects may have deserved." Or hear that Universalist pray: "O Lord, Thou knowest that I have been punished for my sins as I have passed along; I have had a fit of sickness and various pains and losses, nearly or quite enough, Thou knowest, to punish all the sins I have committed; now, therefore, I pray Thee to give me salvation through Thy great mercy." How astonishing that sane men should hold such nonsense! How can a Universalist pray at all? What should they pray for? Not for pardon, for on their principles they have a valid claim to exemption from punishment on the score of justice, as the criminal has who has served out his sentence in the State's prison. The only rational prayer that can be made is that God will do them justice and let them off, since they have already been punished enough. But why should they pray for this? God may be trusted to do justice without their praying for it. I don't wonder that Universalists pray but little; what have they to pray for? Their daily bread? Very well. But the mercy of God they need not on their scheme, for they suffer all they deserve. Pleasing delusion; flattering enough to human pride, but strange for rational minds and horribly pernicious! Restoration takes substantially the same ground, only leaving a part of the penalty to De worked out in purgatory, but claiming salvation on the ground of justice and not mercy. Mercy can have no place in any system of Universalism. Every form of this system arrays God in robes of justice -- inflexible, fearful justice -- yet these men trust, they say, in the mercy of God! But what have they done with the Gospel -- what with all the Bible says about free pardon to the guilty? They have thrust it out of the Bible; and what have they given us instead? Only justice, justice -- punishment enough for sin in this world, or at least in a few years of purgatory: sin a trifle -- government a mere farce -- God a liar -- hell a bugbear and a humbug! What is all this but dire blasphemy as ever came from hell?
If we ask for but little mercy, we shall get none at all. This may seem strange, but is none the less true. If we get anything, we must ask for great blessings. Suppose a man deserved to be hung, and yet asks only for a little favor; suppose he should say so, can he be forgiven? No. He must confess the whole of his guilt in its full and awful form, and show that he feels it in his very soul. So, sinner, must you come and confess your whole guilt as it is, or have no mercy. Come and get down, low, lower, infinitely low before God, and take mercy there. Hear that Universalist. All he can say at first is, "I thank God for a thousand things." But he begins to doubt whether this is quite enough. Perhaps he needs a little more punishment than he has suffered in this life; he sees a little more guilt; so he prays that God would let him off from ten years of deserved punishment in hell. And if he sees a little more guilt, he asks for a reprieve from so much more of punishment. If truth flashes upon his soul and he sees his own heart and life in the light of Jehovah's law, he gets down lower and lower, as low as he can, and pours out his prayer that God would save him from that eternal hell which he deserves. "O," he cries out, "can God forgive so great a sinner!" Yes, and by so much the more readily, by how much the more you humble yourself, and by how much the greater mercy you ask and feel that you need. Only come down and take such a position that God can meet you. Recollect the prodigal son, and that father running, falling on his neck, weeping, welcoming, forgiving! O! how that father's heart gushed with tenderness!
It is not the greatness of your sins, but your pride of heart that forbids your salvation. It is not anything in your past life, but it is your present state of mind that makes your salvation impossible. Think of this.
You need not wait to use means with God to persuade Him to save you. He is using means with you to persuade you to be saved. You act as if God could scarcely be moved by any possible entreaties and submissions to exercise mercy. Oh, you do not see how His great heart beats with compassion and presses the streams of mercy forth in all directions, pouring the river of the waters of life at your very feet, creating such a pressure of appeal to your heart that you have to brace yourself against it, lest you should be persuaded to repent. O, do you see how God would fain persuade you and break your heart in penitence, that He may bring you where He can reach you with forgiving mercy -- where He can come and bless you without resigning His very throne!
To deny your desert of endless punishment is to render your salvation utterly impossible. God never can forgive you on this ground, because you are trying to be saved on the score of justice. You could not make your damnation more certain than you thus make it, if you were to murder every man you meet. You tie up the hands of mercy and will not let her pluck you from the jaws of death. It is as if your house were on fire and you seize your loaded rifle to shoot down every man that comes with his bucket to help you. You stand your ground amid the raging element until you sink beneath the flames. Who can help you? What is that man doing who is trying to make his family believe Universalism? It is as if he would shoot his rifle at the very heart of Mercy every time she comes in view. He seems determined to drive off Mercy, and for this end plies all the enginery of Universalism and throws himself into the citadel of this refuge of lies! O! what a work of death is this! Mercy shall not reach him or his family; so he seems determined -- and Mercy cannot come. See how she bends from heaven -- Jehovah smiles in love -- and weeps in pity -- and bends from the very clouds and holds out the pierced hand of the crucified One. But no! I don't deserve the punishment; away with the insult of a pardon offered through mere mercy! What can be more fatal, more damning, more ruinous to the soul?
You see very clearly why all are not saved. It is not because God is not willing to save all, but because they defeat the efforts God makes to save them. They betake themselves to every possible refuge and subterfuge; resist conviction of guilt, and repel every call of mercy. What ails those young men? What are they doing? Has God come down in His red wrath and vengeance, that they should rally all their might to oppose Him? O, no, He has only come in mercy -- this is all -- and they are fighting against His mercy, not His just retributions of vengeance. If this were His awful arm of vengeance you would bow right soon or break beneath its blow. But God's mercy comes in its soft whispers (would you but realize it) -- it comes to win your heart; and what are you doing? You band yourselves together to resist its calls -- you invent a thousand excuses -- you run together to talk, and talk away all solemn thought -- you run to some infidel or Universalist to find relief for an uneasy conscience. Ah, sinner, this can do you no good. You flee away from God -- why? What's the matter? Is God pouring down the floods of His great wrath? No, no; but Mercy has come, and would fain gather you under her outspread wings where storms of wrath can never come. But no, the sinner pleads against it -- cavils, runs, fights, repels the angel of mercy -- dashes from his lips the waters of life. Sinner, this scene is soon to close. The time is short. Soon God comes -- death shakes his dart -- that young man is sick -- hear his groans. Are you going to die, my young friend? Are you ready? O, I don't know; I am in great pain. O! O! how can I live so? Alas, how can I die? I can't attend to it now -- too late -- too late! Indeed, young man, you are in weakness now. God's finger has touched you. O, if I could only tell you some of the death-bed scenes which I have witnessed -- if I could make you see them, and hear the deep wailings of unutterable agony as the soul quivered, shuddered, and fain would shrink away into annihilation from the awful eye -- and was swept down swift to hell! Those are the very men who ran away from mercy! Mercy could not reach them, but death can. Death seizes its victim. See, he drags the frightened, shrieking soul to the gate-way of hell; how that soul recoils -- groans -- what an unearthly groan -- and he is gone! The sentence of execution has gone out and there is no reprieve. Thai sinner would not have mercy when he might; now he cannot when he would. All is over now.
Dying sinner, you may just as well have mercy today as not. All your past sins present no obstacle at all if you only repent and take the offered pardon. Your God proffers you life. "As I live," saith the Lord, "I have no pleasure in your death; turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?" Why will you reject such offered life? And will you still persist? Be astonished, O ye heavens! Indeed, if there ever was anything that filled the universe with astonishment, it is the sinner's rejection of mercy. Angels were astonished when they saw the Son of God made flesh, and when they saw Him nailed to a tree -- how much more now to see the guilty sinner, doomed to hell, yet spurning offered pardon! What do they see! That sinner putting off and still delaying and delaying still, until -- what? Until the last curtain falls, and the great bell tolls, tolls, tolls the awful knell of the sinner's death eternal! Where is that sinner? Follow him -- down he goes, weeping, wailing, along the sides of the pit -- he reaches his own final home; in "his own place" now and forevermore! Mercy followed him to the last verge of the precipice, and could no longer. She has done her part.
What if a spirit from glory should come and speak to you five minutes -- a relative, say -- perhaps your mother -- what would she say? Or a spirit from that world of despair -- O could such a one give utterance to the awful realities of that prison house, what would be say? Would he tell you that the preacher has been telling you lies? Would he say, Don't be frightened by these made-up tales of horror? O, no, but that the half has not been told you and never can be. O, how he would press you, if he might, to flee from the wrath to come!