S. MATTHEW xviii.28,
"Pay me that thou owest."
The Gospel shows us in a parable a picture of a king who called his servants to a reckoning. That King is the Lord God Almighty. We are His servants, and He calls us to account every day. All we possess we owe as a debt to God. Day by day He gives us our food, and supplies our wants by His good Providence. On every hour of our existence is written, Jehovah-Jireh -- The Lord will provide. Day by day God takes care of us, and shields us from danger. He provides for our souls as well as for our bodies, and gives us the ministry of His Church, the grace of His Sacraments, the teaching of His Bible, the blessing of prayer. And all these blessings are a debt which we owe to God, and He is ever saying to us. "Pay Me that thou owest." And how can we pay? By doing what God bids us. By using our gifts in His service. We can give Him worship, not only worship in Church, but in all our everyday life and work, "doing all unto the glory of God." We can show forth His praise not only with our lips but in our lives. God has given us hands and brains to work with; and He says, "Pay Me that thou owest." That means that we must do good work, honest work, unselfish work, because we owe our power to labour as a debt to God. He has given us a voice, and He says, "Pay Me that thou owest." That means that we must use our voice to sing God's praise, to maintain His honour, to spread the truth of His Gospel, to comfort His people. We must devote our voice to speaking good words, and never defile it with vile language in the devil's service, because it is a debt which we owe to God. So with our health, our strength, our time, for all these God reckons with His servants. If we are misusing these things, wasting our time, devoting our strength to mere selfish, worldly pursuits, neglecting our opportunities, terrible will be the final day of reckoning when God will say for the last time, "Pay Me that thou owest."
We read in the parable of to-day's Gospel that one of the king's servants owed him ten thousand talents. This was so vast a sum that no man could possibly pay it. In that servant we see ourselves. We owe a debt to God which we cannot pay. The wages of sin is death, and as sinners we are like the servant, we owe a vast debt, and we have not wherewithal to pay. Nothing that we can do will put away our sin, or excuse us from the penalty. That servant in the parable prayed his lord to have patience, saying that he would pay all. We may think foolishly that we can pay the debt of old sins by leading good lives now. But it may not be. If a man owes money he is not excused the debt because now he pays his way. Our sins are the great debt of ten thousand talents. God's law is written in the ten commandments, and we have broken them a thousand times. We cannot pay. The king in his mercy forgave the servant. So God forgives us through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ. He paid the debt which we cannot pay, He bore our sins, the sin of Adam born with us, and the actual sins of our lives, on the Cross of Calvary. His Blood was the price which paid the debt. When we are baptised we are baptised into His Death, and the sin of Adam is forgiven. When we repent truly of a sin of our own committing, we are made partakers in the benefits of His Passion. When we come devoutly to Holy Communion our sinful bodies are made clean by Christ's Body, and our souls washed in His most Precious Blood, and our sins are forgiven us. But the parable not only teaches us our need of pardon, and the fulness of God's mercy, but the necessity of forgiving each other. The servant who owed the vast debt was pardoned. Yet he would not forgive his fellow servant who owed him a trifling sum. The story of the unmerciful servant is being repeated everywhere around us. We see men crying to God for mercy -- poor, sinful, debtors, bankrupts, who have not wherewithal to pay. Every day we are obliged to confess that we owe a debt to God, and cannot pay it. And every day the Lord of mercy and love forgives us our debt. Yes, but only on certain conditions. God has Himself taught us to say, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. If we are unmerciful servants, refusing to our fellow men what God gives us, He will treat us as He treated the servant of the parable. He had forgiven him all, but now He withdraws His pardon, and delivers him to the tormentors. A man with an unforgiving spirit, who nourishes hatred and revenge against a neighbour, is already possessed by a devil, and his future must be spent in the society of devils.
And now bring the matter home to your own individual cases. Are you nourishing bitter, unforgiving feelings against anyone who has injured you? Is there anyone whose success annoys you, and whose misfortune would give you pleasure? Are you thinking of some wrong done to you, some hard word spoken about you, some unjust judgment passed on you; and are you hoping that a day may come when the person who has so acted, or spoken, may suffer for it? My brothers, if so, you are just so many unmerciful servants, going through the world, and seizing your brother-sinners by the throat, and saying -- "Pay me that thou owest." Give up calling yourselves Christians, give up asking God to pardon you, unless you can freely and fully forgive your brethren the little debts of this little world. A certain king of France said that nothing smelt so sweet as the dead body of an enemy. And there are people among us now who tell us that revenge is sweet. But it is false. To forgive is sweet, is blessed, to hate brings only the remorse of devils. But you tell me it is so hard to forgive sometimes. So it is, but the greater the pardon given the greater the blessing. And remember that forgiveness must not be measured, and stinted, but free, and full. We must not say, "I will forgive him this once, but never more." S. Peter asked Jesus how often he should pardon a brother's sin, and suggested seven times. The Jewish teachers said that after three faults men need not forgive. S. Peter was in advance of them, but the Lord's answer must have astonished him, -- "until seventy times seven," that meant always, without stint, or measure. And remember also, that forgiveness must be real and true. We may not forgive with our lips, and bear malice in our hearts. Such sham forgiveness is only too common. A man was lying on his sick bed, and the clergyman by his side was urging him to be reconciled to some one who had injured him. After much persuasion the man said, "If I die I will forgive him, but if I live he had better keep out of my way." And again, our forgiveness must be willing, not forced from us. As says our greatest poet --
"the quality of mercy is not strain'd;
A boy, nearly broken-hearted with grief, stood by his mother's coffin. "Oh! let me see my dear mother once more, only once more," he pleaded. A man who was about to screw down the coffin-lid thrust him aside with brutal violence, and even struck the orphan child. Years afterwards that man stood in the dock, to be tried for his life as a murderer. He had no counsel to defend him, but just as the case commenced a young barrister rose in court, and offered his services to the prisoner. His speech for the defence was so eloquent, and so convincing, that the prisoner was acquitted. Outside the court he turned to thank his preserver. The stranger looked at him steadily, and said, "Do you remember years ago, driving a poor, broken-hearted boy from his mother's coffin with a curse and a blow? I was that boy." The man was overwhelmed with shame and confusion. "Why have you given me my life?" he asked. "To show you," answered the other, "that I can forgive."
Oh! my brothers, if we would find pardon for our many sins, let us ask Him who prayed for His murderers to teach us how to forgive.
"Walk with care 'mid human spirits,