And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
It is to be pointed out that the Gospel version of the Lord's Prayer uses here in this petition the words "debts" and "debtors;" while, in what may be regarded as a parallel passage (Luke 11:4), the prayer reads, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive our debtors" It might, possibly, and not altogether unplausibly, be held that this last form of the words designs to avoid bringing into near comparison the dread reality we call sin against God, with our sins (though still justly so called) against one another. At any rate, the version may suggest profitably the thought. Vast also and indeed immeasurable the difference between what we owe to God and what any one can owe to us; still these facts more naturally both fall under the description of "debts." Again, though the words "debts" and "debtors" are virtually commented upon by the "trespasses" of ver. 14, it is not impossible that they suggest the sequence of this petition upon the one preceding it. We have just prayed, "Give us this day," etc. What debts, indeed, God's daily innumerable givings, as Creator to all creation, as Father to all his family, entail upon them! These are not less to be thought of because they partake so much of a moral character, and are so analogous to those which children owe to their earthly parents. Though parents must give for the sake of the life of those to whom they give, their claim upon the gratitude, obedience, devotion, of their offspring is indefeasible, and the high, solemn sanctions of that claim in Scripture are second to none. Dwell on the consideration of -
I. THE EXISTENCE OF THIS GREAT THING, THIS GREAT FACT, IN THE WORLD - "FORGIVENESS:" WHAT DOES IT MARK?
1. It is a convincing proof of a moral element present in the world's social structure.
2. It is a convincing proof that that moral element is not of the nature of a level, stern, logical justice by itself, without elasticity, without any possible method of compensation, without any provision of remedy, in the event of incursions of error, accident, fault.
3. The outward practice of forgiveness (leaving out of question any cultivating of the spirit of forgiving)is found an absolute necessity for carrying on the community of social life.
4. The three foregoing particulars may be viewed as a strong supporting argument of the species of analogy, justifying the article of the apostolic Creed, that says, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." And they may be viewed so yet the more in the light of the second clause of the petition now before us, "as we forgive our debtors."
II. THE WIDE RANGE THROUGH WHICH PRAYERS FOR GOD'S FORGIVENESS NEED TO BE OFFERED.
1. For debts in the matter of mercies innumerable and priceless, of which so little account has been made, and for which so little fruitful return has been shown.
2. For our debts in the matter of innumerable faults - faults of omission and of carelessness.
3. For our debts in the solemn matter of what can be described as nothing less than sin against God; and which we must know to be such by reason, by conscience, by education, by the education further of his revealed Word, and by the most explicit and most tender revelation of his love in Christ Jesus.
4. For all the debts of all that vast family of which we are a part, and for which our "prayers and intercessions" are permitted and invited.
III. THE EXCEEDINGLY SOLEMN FORM UNDER WHICH WE ARE TAUGHT TO ENTREAT GOD'S FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS, VIZ. "AFTER THE MANNER" OF OUR OWN FORGIVENESS OF OUR BROTHER. The thrilling suggestions of warning that lie plain to every gaze in these words of prayer fitted to our lips by Jesus, emphasized in vers. 14, 15, and so often repeated by us, are only equalled by the matchless condescension of them. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.