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THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM,
THE UNMERCIFUL SERVANT.
St. MATTHEW, xviii., v. 33 to 34.—“And his Lord was wroth and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him ; so likewise shall my Heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
Our final safety and temporal probation are ideas perfectly compatible, and yet in the application of these principles many persons are sorely perplexed. not the truth declared to us that final safety depends on the unchanging counsels and love of God, we never could have any internal grounds of hope to get to heaven. Had we not the discipline of probation we never could have the moral training that is to fit us for heaven. Our frailty needs the certainty of the unchanging counsels of God; our moral nature needs the discipline of the varying providences of God. Now this parable seems to deny the principle of final safety; for the man who had been pardoned is represented as having been subsequently given over to the tormentors, and our Lord adds, “So likewise shall my Heavenly Father do
also unto you; if ye from your hearts forgive not every man his brother their trespasses.” The blessedness those whose hearts are renewed, and whose persons are justified by faith, is in no degree denied by this parable, inasmuch as its threatenings only apply to the unforgiving; if every really renewed heart is a forgiving heart the parable does not threaten such person. therefore see what it teaches us. It represents the Kingdom of Heaven as being like unto a king who found a servant that owed him ten thousand talents; he forgave him freely, he kept him in his service, remitted his punishment, and retained him in his family. That servant did not conduct himself with similar principles towards his fellow servant; and the same king takes him and brings him into a second account for the former debt; he delivers him over to the tormentors till the whole debt was paid. Our Lord gives us this as the similitude of the Kingdom of Heaven, that is of the church on earth. We have, therefore, to enquire in what sense persons may receive pardon, and yet afterwards be punished for their sins. In following out the teaching of Holy Scripture on this important subject. I shall consider,
1. The nature of pardon,
II. The pardon which belongs to the Kingdom of Heaven.
III. The privileges, responsibilities, and duties resulting from that pardon.
· Brethren, this is a complicated as well as a most important subject; it requires our earnest and close attention; it requires our prayerful thoughtful hours. Let us pray that the blessed Spirit of God may enlighten the eyes of our understanding, may quicken the affec
tion of our hearts, and give us that diligence of attention to this deeply important subject, as may make us hear profitably unto our own salvation.
I. Let us first then consider the nature of pardon and that in four respects.
1. In the mind of the offended party.
1st. What is the nature of pardon in general; not only God's pardon, but man's pardon? The general subject of forgiveness is in the mind of the offended party. It implies that there has been in the mind of the offended party a just reason for being displeased. A pardon with reference to him would be not having the feeling of displeasure, but a feeling of acceptance in his own mind towards the person who had so deserved punishment from him. Our primary idea of pardon therefore is a state of mind in the offended party which does not desire the punishment, but rather desires reconciliation with the offending party.
2nd. In the declaration of that mind the offended party may declare his forgiveness although the party offending may be unwilling to receive the forgiveness. Pardon therefore as on one side may be a real and true pardon, while on the other side there is an equal unwillingness to receive it. Yet we should not doubt that there has been a real pardoning, forgiving state of mind in the party offended, without any reference to the state of mind of the offending party. Now in the declaration of pardon, the offended party may send a message of forgiveness to the other, may provide the means of return, may entreat him to return, and so be in a forgiving state of mind towards the party offending, without any reference to the condition of that person's mind when he may remain most unwilling to return, he may reject all the offers of pardon, he may continue in his ungrateful enmity against the offended party, and yet this would not in the smallest degree alter the fact of the offended party having proclaimed forgiveness, free, full forgiveness, having been most willing that the other should return and receive his bleesing.
3rd. In the exercise of pardon, it may be all on one side in this way, or it may embrace both sides. The party offending may accept that pardon, he may return, may be admitted into his household, may have continual relation with him, may be again and again doing something that ought to give him offence; may have need to come and ask him for that forgivenesss, and may receive it as often as he asks, and the comforting assurance of the love, and the kindness and goodness of the party who ought to be offended, would be the best attraction to his coming back again to ask his forgiveness for the multitude of little acts that would need it, of which he might be inadvertently or wilfully guilty.
4th. Now in the enjoyment of that pardon, a man who had been dismissed from another's house, or another's service, and was re-admitted into the family, or into the service could have no doubt of his general pardon, although dwelling in the house there might be need of his every hour coming and asking some forgiveness for similar offences or similar failures in that household. Here therefore we have a picture presented to us of the nature of divine and human pardon, the nature of forgiveness in general: and from this let us turn to consider,
II. The pardon which belongs to the Kingdom of Heaven.
1st. We may consider it in the mind of God, in God's mind towards the whole world, and therefore specially towards the church. We have in human things probationary pardon, and that real and full confiding pardon which is not probationary. We may forgive a person an offence upon condition that he promises not to repeat the offence, and yet after a frequent repetition of the same offence we should bring up in reproach to that person all the past times he had been forgiven. And it would be no denial of the sincerity of the previous forgivenesses, that those mortal delinquencies were brought up in remembrance upon the repetition of the same.
Now here is an example to us of that probationary pardon which was in the mind of God towards the whole world, and not only was, but is in God's mind toward the whole world. Whatever God is at any time, that he is at all times, for he is the unehanging God, and if there be a feeling of love in his mind towards us at any time, there is at all times; and our blessed Saviour represents the gift of the Son of God to the world, as the atonement for sin, to be the result of God's love to the world. Consequently God was in a forgiving state of mind towards the world before he gave his Son, if we may apply the idea of time to God. The gift of his Son being the result of his love, the love must have preceded the gift of the Son, and that love that gave the Son for our sins, must have been pardoning love. There was therefore so far as concerns the mind of God, pardoning love towards this world before ever the world was created, as truly pardoning love before the world sinned, and before it was created, as as truly pardoning at this moment as it ever was and ever shall be. As there is in man, so there is in God