Luke 23:34
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. When - at what particular point did he say that? It is commonly believed that he uttered this most gracious prayer just at the time of the actual crucifixion. Just when the nails were driven into those hands, the hands that had constantly been employed in some ministry of mercy; into those feet that had been continually carrying him on some errand of kindness; or just when the heavy cross, with its suffering Victim fastened upon it, had been driven into the ground with unpitying violence; - just then, at the moment of most excruciating pain and of intolerable shame, he opened his lips to pray for mercy on his executioners. We have here -


1. Conscious, not only of perfect innocence, but of the purest and even the loftiest aims, Jesus Christ found himself not only unrewarded and unappreciated, but misunderstood, ill treated, condemned on a totally false charge, sentenced to the most cruel and shameful death a man could die. What wonder if, under those conditions, all the kindliness of his nature had turned to sourness of spirit!

2. At this very moment he was the object of the most heartless cruelty man could inflict, and must have been suffering pain of body and of mind that was literally agonizing.

3. At such a time, and under such treatment, he forgets himself to remember the guilt of those who were so shamefully wronging him.

4. Instead of entertaining any feeling of resentment, he desired that they might be forgiven their wrong-doing.

5. He did not haughtily and contemptuously decline to condemn them; he did not hardly and reluctantly forgive them; he found for them a generous extenuation; he sincerely prayed his heavenly Father to forgive them. Human magnanimity could hardly go further than that.

II. A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE OF HIS OWN LOFTY DOCTRINE. When in his great sermon, (Matthew 5-7.) he said, "Love your enemies... pray for them which despitefully use and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven," he urged upon us to cherish and to illustrate the loftiest virtue on the highest grounds. This he now beautifully, perfectly exemplified. He was literally and truly praying for those who were using him despitefully, As the greatest generals and captains have proudly and honourably claimed that they "never bade men do that which they were not willing to do themselves," so this our glorious Leader, he who came to be the "Leader and Perfecter of the faith" (Hebrews 12:2: Alford), never desired of us any virtue or grace which he did not possess and did not himself adorn. He could and did say to his disciples, not only," Go thither in the way of righteousness," but also, "Follow me in every path of purity and love." We may well love our enemies, and pray for those who despitefully use us, that we may be the children of our Father in heaven, and that we may be followers of our patient, magnanimous Master. And it is here, truly, that we have -


1. To pray sincerely for those who do us wrong is one of the very highest points, if not actually the very loftiest, of human magnanimity. To dismiss all vindictive purpose, all resentful thought; to look at our enemy's procedure in a kindly light, and to take, as Christ did here, a generous view of it; to cherish a positive wish for his good; to put this wish into action, into prayer; - by these stages we reach the summit of nobility.

2. This is an attainment we should sedulously and devoutly pursue. There are those of noble nature, men and women whom God endows with a most "excellent spirit," to whom this may be plain and easy; to them it is not a steep ascent to be laboriously climbed, but a gentle slope along which they can walk without difficulty. But to most men it is an attainment and not an endowment. It is an attainment which ban only be secured by earnest and continued cultivation. But we have for this great end the most effectual means:

(1) the realization of the near presence of God, and the knowledge of his Divine approval;

(2) the sense that when we succeed we win the greatest of all victories;

(3) the efficacy of prayer - its subjective influence, and the aid which it brings us from above;

(4) the inspiration of our Lord's example, and that of his most faithful followers (Acts 7:60; 2 Timothy 4:16). - C.

Father, forgive them, for they know not.

1. They have a very limited view of their own feelings and purposes while in a course of sin; and infer that they cannot be very guilty, because they have never been conscious of a very evil intention.

2. Many derive their limited views of their sins from their meagre conceptions of the Divine law.

3. Others erect a bar to conviction of personal guilt out of materials taken from infirmities incident to human nature.

4. Others diminish their conceptions of their guilt, by comparing themselves with greater sinners.

5. Sin appears very different according to the different light and circumstances in which it is seen.

6. Again, delay of punishment goes to confirm men in the opinion that sin is a trifle.


1. It is very different in its effects from what they esteem it.

2. Sin is very different if we consider the state of heart which gives birth to it.

3. The costly expiation for sin shows it to be no trifle.

4. The retributions of eternity will make sin to appear quite another thing from what it is here esteemed.

(P. Cooke.)

Joseph Robbins was a bridge watchman on a railway. He was murdered by a neighbour who wanted to get his money. The murderer was caught directly after. During the trial he made this confession in open court: — "I knew that Robbins had just received his month's wages, and I resolved to have his money. I got a shot-gun and went to the bridge. As I came near to the watch-house, on looking through the window, I saw Robbins sitting inside. His head and shoulders only could be seen. I raised the gun, took aim and fired. I waited a few minutes to see if the report of the gun had alarmed any one, but all was still. Then I went up to the watch-house door, and found Robbins on his knees praying. Very plainly I heard him say: 'Oh, God, have mercy on the man who did this, and spare him for Jesus' sake.' I was horrified; I did not dare to enter the house. I couldn't touch that man's money. Instead of this, I turned and ran away, I knew not whither. His words have haunted me ever since."

"God is great in Sinai. The thunders precede Him, the lightnings attend Him, the earth trembles, the mountains fall in fragments. But there is a greater God than this. On Calvary, nailed to a cross, wounded, thirsting, dying, He cries, 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!' Great is the religion of power, but greater is the religion of love. Great is the religion of implacable justice, but greater is the religion of pardoning mercy."

(Senor Castelar.)

Let the first word of the dying Jesus be the subject of our meditation. It is —

I. A word of peace in the storm of suffering.

II. A word of love in the tumult of hatred.

III. A word of excuse amid the depths of wickedness.

(A Stucker.)

Theological Sketch-book.

1. The magnitude of the blessing prayed for.

2. The extreme unworthiness of the objects.

3. The heinous nature of their offence.

4. The efficacy of the petition in securing the blessing prayed for.


1. It is such as would have not been found by any other advocate.

2. It is a plea which shows theft sin has different degrees of guilt, according to the circumstances under which it is committed.

3. It is a plea which teaches us that for some there was no mercy, though there might be for those on whose behalf it was offered. There is a sin unto death, which has no forgiveness in this world, nor in that which is to come (Matthew 12:32).

4. Though their ignorance afforded a plea for mercy, they were not to be pardoned without repentance.Application:

1. We see there is that in the nature of sin which surpasses all our conceptions.

2. Still, we learn that notwithstanding the evil nature of sin, there is no reason for despair, not even for the chief of sinners.

3. The conduct of our blessed Lord is set before us in this instance as an example, teaching us what must be our spirit towards our enemies and persecutors. Stephen followed this example, and we must learn to do the same (Acts 7:60; Matthew 5:44, 45).

(Theological Sketch-book.)


1. Men are ignorant of its extreme evil in the sight of God.

2. Men are ignorant of the baneful influence of sin upon themselves. They are not aware how it hardens the heart, stupifies the conscience, settles into habit, and at length gains complete ascendency.

3. Men are ignorant of the pernicious effect of sin on others. Few sins are confined to the transgressor only: they have a relative influence.

4. Men are ignorant of the dreadful consequences of sin in another world. There is a future state of gracious reward for the righteous, and of awful retribution for the wicked.

II. IGNORANCE IS NO SUFFICIENT EXCUSE FOR SIN. In some instances it mitigates offence.

1. Ignorance itself is sin. In all cases it is so, where the capacity and opportunity of knowledge are afforded.

2. The law of God condemns all sin, every kind and degree of sin.

3. Every act of sin implies a sinful nature: it springs from a depraved heart.


1. To regard the intercession of Jesus in the forgiveness of sins.

2. To imitate Jesus in the forgiveness of injuries.

(T. Kidd.)

! —


II. WE SEE THAT LOVE REVEALING ITSELF. Love can use no better instrument than prayer. To this present our Lord Jesus continues to bless the people of His choice by continually interceding for them (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).

III. WE SEE FOR WHAT THAT LOVE PRAYS. Forgiveness is the first, chief, and basis blessing. Forgiveness from the Father can even go so far as to pardon the murder of His Son. Forgiveness is the great petition of our Lord's sacrifice. Love admits that pardon is needed, and it shudders at the thought of what must come to the guilty if pardon be not given.

IV. WE SEE HOW THE LOVING JESUS PRAYS. Are there any so guilty that Jesus would refuse to intercede for them?

V. WE SEE HOW HIS PRAYER BOTH WARNS AND WOOS. It warns, for it suggests that there is a limit to the possibility of pardon. Men may so sin that there shall remain no plea of ignorance; nay, no plea whatever. It woos, for it proves that if there be a plea, Jesus will find it.

VI. WE SEE HOW HE INSTRUCTS FROM THE CROSS. He teaches us to put the best construction on the deeds of our fellow-men, and to discover mitigating circumstances when they work us grievous ill. He teaches us to forgive the utmost wrong (Mark 11:25). He teaches us to pray for others to our last breath (Acts 7:59, 60). That glorious appeal to the Divine Fatherhood, once made by the Lord Jesus, still prevails for us. Let the chief of sinners come unto God with the music of "Father, forgive them," sounding in their ears.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

You have in these words an affecting prayer, enforced by a plea equally affecting.

I. Your attention is invited to the prayer, which, in whatever light regarded, is fitted to awaken profound emotion and salutary reflection.

1. Observe the persons on whose behalf it was presented — the men who perpetrated the most flagitious and sanguinary deed that ever stained with its pollutions the face of the earth — the men who crucified the Son of God. The moral turpitude of their crime was aggravated by two considerations. In the first place, the victim of their ferocity was guiltless of the smallest offence. They were guilty of innocent blood! In the next place, their conduct was aggravated by the more than ordinary rancour, the pitiless hatred with which they pursued Him to the grave.

2. Not less remarkable is the subject of the prayer itself. It amounts to nothing less than that the men who nailed Him to the cross might live to put off the savage nature which could revel in the blood of innocence, and, through repentance and faith, be qualified for an eternal alliance with Himself in the glory of His mediatorial kingdom. Such is the compassion of Jesus Christ.

3. The time and the circumstances of this prayer render it peculiarly interesting. That which renders it worthy of particular notice, as illustrative of the grace of Christ, is, that He offered it up just at the time of His suspension on the cross, at the moment when His agonies were most severe, when His nerves were racked with keenest suffering. His languor and exhaustion might be greater afterwards, but His sensibility to pain was, perhaps, most exquisite at this critical moment. Yet this is the point of time at which He breathes forth the desires of His soul for mercy on His destroyers. There are two observations suggested by this fact. In the first place, the calmness, the self-possession, the sustained dignity of the mind of the Redeemer at this appalling crisis, demonstrate the fixed resolution with which He was bent on the design of His death. In the second place, I observe, that there was a remarkable fitness in the prayer of Jesus Christ, presented by Himself at this awful season. He suffered and He died as the Lamb of the great sacrifice for the expiation of human guilt. And being Himself both the victim and the priest, there was a peculiar fitness in His also interceding on behalf of the guilty, at the time when, as the High Priest of our profession, He was offering the blood of atonement.

II. This prayer is accompanied by a plea not less remarkable and affecting. "For they know not what they do!"

1. How far were the men who crucified our Lord ignorant of the nature of the transaction in which they were engaged? That they were implicated in innocent blood they knew; but that their crime was still more deeply coloured from the supernatural dignity of their victim, of this they were ignorant.

2. How far, then, was this their ignorance a plea for their forgiveness? The plea does not proceed, I conceive, on the concession of their comparative innocence, but upon the hopeless and inevitable ruin into which these blinded wretches were hastening to plunge. It was the dreadful ruin to which the blind madness of these men was hurrying them onwards, that awakened the pity of the Redeemer, even amidst the agonies of His own broken heart, and drew from His suppliant voice that prayer, "Forgive them, Father! they know not what they do!" Oh, how mysterious, how ineffable, the compassion of Jesus Christi The prayer itself contained a touching proof of the infinite mercy of the Redeemer; but, if possible, the plea by which He enforces that prayer, multiplies that proof, and places His love to miserable men in a light still more affecting and overwhelming.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

The words of the dying are wont to be much observed. When men depart out of the body, they are usually more serious and divine, and speak with greater weight. Especially the speeches of the godly dying are to be regarded, who, having laid aside worldly affairs and earthly thoughts, are wholly exercised in the contemplation of heavenly things. Now certainly, if any man's dying speeches are to be observed, Christ's are much more.

I. Christ's request, "Father, forgive them." "Father" is a word of confidence towards God and of love to His enemies; He mentioneth the sweetest relation. "Father" is a word of blandishment, as children, when they would obtain anything at their parent's hands, cry, "Father!" Christ speaks as foreseeing the danger and punishment which they would bring on themselves as the fruit of their madness and folly, and therefore He prays, "Father, forgive them." This act was provocation enough to move God to dissolve the bonds of nature, to cleave the earth, that it might swallow them up quick, or to rain hell out of heaven upon them. Lesser offences have been thus punished, and one word from Christ's mouth had been enough. But, "Father, forgive them." We hear nothing but words of mild pity. When He says, "Forgive," He means also convert them; for where there is no conversion there can be no remission. I shall look upon this prayer under a twofold consideration.

I. Let us look upon it AS A MORAL ACTION. He doth not threaten fearful judgments, but prayed for His enemies; there was no stain of passion and revenge upon His sufferings (1 Peter 2:21). One great use of Christ's death was to give us lessons of meekness and patience and humble suffering. In this act there is an excellent lesson. Let us look upon the necessary circumstances that serve to set it off

(1)For whom He prays;

(2)When He prays;

(3)Why He prays;

(4)In what manner. Information:

1. It informeth us that the love of Christ is greater than we can think or understand, much less express.

2. That all sins, even the greatest, except that against the Holy Ghost, are pardonable.

3. That remission of sins is the free gift of God, and the fruit of His pity and grace. Christ asketh it of His Father.

4. That pardon of sins is a special benefit. Christ asked no more than, "Father, forgive them." It is a special benefit, because it freeth us from the greatest evil, wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). And it maketh us capable of the greatest blessing, eternal life (Titus 3:7).

5. That love of enemies, and those that bare wronged us, is an high grace, and recommended to us by Christ's own example. Sure it is needful that we should learn this lesson, to be like God (Luke 6:36).

6. Reproof of those that are cruel and revengeful. How different are they from Christ who are all for unkindness and revenge, and solicit vengeance against God's suffering servants with eager aggravations! Oh, how can these men look upon Christ's practice without shame! How can they look upon these prodigies of love and grace, and not blush!

II. The next consideration of this prayer of Christ is AS A TASTE AND PLEDGE OF HIS MEDIATION AND INTERCESSION. So it is prophesied: "He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).

1. It is an instance of Christ's love and bowels to sinners; He loved mankind so well that He prayed for them that crucified Him. Look on the Lord Jesus as praying and dying for enemies, and improve it as a ground of confidence.

2. See what is the voice and merit of His sufferings, "Father, forgive them." This is the speech that Christ uttered when He was laid on the cross. Abel's blood was clamorous in the ears of God (Genesis 4:10). Christ's blood hath another voice, it speaketh to God to pacify His wrath, and to pardon us, if penitent and believing sinners; it speaketh to conscience to be quiet, God hath found out a ransom.

3. In the mediatory consideration it hinteth the coupling of His intercession with His satisfaction. On the cross, there He dieth and there He prayeth; He was both priest and sacrifice.

4. This is a pledge of His constant intercession in heaven.

5. It shows the nature of His intercession.

6. The success of Christ's intercession, "Father, forgive them." Was He heard in this? Yes; this prayer converts the centurion, and those above "three thousand" (Acts 2:41), and presently after five thousand more (Acts 4:4). In the compass of a few days above eight thousand of His enemies were converted. Christ is good at interceding; His prayers are always heard (John 11:42).

II. I come now to the argument used, "They know not what they do."

(T. Manton, D. D.)

I. THAT IGNORANCE IS THE USUAL CAUSE OF ENMITY TO CHRIST. "These things" (saith the Lord) "will they do, because they have not known the Father, nor Me" (John 16:3).

1. What was their ignorance, who crucified Christ? Ignorance is two-fold, simple or respective. Simple ignorance is not supposable in these persons, for in many things they were a knowing people. But it was a respective particular ignorance, "Blindness in part is happened to Israel" (Romans 11:25). They knew many other truths, but did not know Jesus Christ. In that their eyes were held.Though they had the Scriptures among them, they misunderstood them, and did not rightly measure Christ by that right rule.(1) They supposed Christ to arise out of Galilee, whereas He was of Bethlehem, though much conversant in the parts of Galilee. And(2) they thought, because they could find no prophet had arisen out of Galilee, therefore none should. Another mistake that blinded them about Christ, was from their conceit that Christ should not die, but live for ever (John 12:34). Thus were they blinded about the person of Christ, by misinterpretations of Scripture-prophecies.

2. Another thing occasioning their mistake of Christ, was the outward meanness and despicableness of His condition.

3. Add to this, their implicit faith in the learned rabbles and doctors, who utterly misled them in this matter, and greatly prejudiced them against Christ. Let us see, in the next place, how this disposed them to such enmity against Christ. And this it doth three ways.(1) Ignorance disposes men to enmity and opposition to Christ, by removing those hindrances that would otherwise keep them from it. As checks and rebukes of conscience, by which they are restrained from evil; but conscience binding and reproving in the authority and virtue of the law of God; where that law is not known, there can be no reproofs, and therefore we truly say, that ignorance is virtually every sin.(2) Ignorance enslaves and subjects the soul to the lusts of Satan, he is "the ruler of the darkness of this world" (Ephesians 6:12). There is no work so base and vile, but an ignorant man will undertake it.(3) Nay, which is more, if a man be ignorant of Christ, His truths, or people, he will not only oppose, and persecute, but he will also do it conscientiously, i.e., he will look upon it as his duty so to do (John 16:3).

1. How falsely is the gospel charged as the cause of discord and trouble in the world. It is not light, but darkness, that makes men fierce and cruel. As light increases, so doth peace (Isaiah 11:6, 9).

2. How dreadful is it to oppose Christ and His truths knowingly, and with open eyes? Christ pleads their ignorance as an argument to procure their pardon.

3. What an awful majesty sits upon the brow of holiness, that few dare to oppose it that see it!

4. The enemies of Christ are objects of pity. Alas, they are blind, and know not what they do.

5. How needful is it before we engage ourselves against any person or way, to be well satisfied and resolved that it is a wicked person or practice that we oppose.


1. To open the nature of the forgiveness, and show you what it is.

2. To evince the possibility of it, for such as mistakingly oppose Christ.For —

1. Forgiveness is God's gracious discharge of a believing penitent sinner from the guilt of all his sin, for Christ's sake.

2. Now, to evince the possibility of forgiveness for such as ignorantly oppose Christ, let these things be weighed.(1) Why should any poor soul, that is now humbled for its enmity to Christ in the days of ignorance, question the possibility of forgiveness, when this effect doth not exceed the power of the cause; nay, when there is more efficacy in the blood of Christ, the meritorious cause, than is in this effect of it?(2) And as this sin exceeds not the power of the meritorious cause of forgiveness, so neither is it anywhere excluded from pardon by any word of God.


1. Let us inquire what this Christian forgiveness is. And that the nature of it may the better appear, I shall show you both what it is not and what it is.(1) It consists not in a stoical insensibility of wrongs and injuries.(2) Christian forgiveness is not a politic concealment of our wrath and revenge because it will be a reproach to discover it, or because we want opportunity to vent it. This is carnal policy, not Christian meekness.(3) Nor is it that moral virtue for which we are beholden to an easier and better nature and the help of moral rules and documents.(4) Christian forgiveness is not an injurious giving up of our rights and properties to the lusts of every one that hath a mind to invade them. But, then, positively, it is a Christian lenity or gentleness of mind, not retaining, but freely passing by the injuries done to us, in obedience to the command of God. This is forgiveness in a Christian sense.

2. And this is excellent, and singularly becoming the profession of Christ, is evident, inasmuch as this speaks your religion excellent that can mould your hearts into that heavenly frame to which they are so averse, yea, contrarily disposed by nature.Inference

1. Hence we clearly infer that Christian religion, exalted in its power, is the greatest friend to the peace and tranquillity of states and kingdoms.

2. How dangerous a thing is it to abuse and wrong meek and forgiving Christians?

3. Let us imitate our pattern Christ, and labour for meek forgiving spirits. I shall only propose two inducements to it — the honour of Christ, and your own peace: two dear things indeed to a Christian.

(J. Flavel.)

I. Let us look at this very wonderful text as ILLUSTRATIVE OF OUR LORD'S INTERCESSION.

1. The first point in which we may see the character of His intercession is this — it is most gracious. Those for whom our Lord prayed, according to the text, did not deserve His prayer.

2. A second quality of His intercession is this — its careful spirit. You notice in the prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," our Saviour did, as it were, look His enemies through and through to find something in them that He could urge in their favour; but He could see nothing until His wisely affectionate eye lit upon their ignorance: "they know not what they do."

3. We must next note its earnestness.

4. It is interesting to note, in the fourth place, that the prayer here offered helps us to judge of His intercession in heaven as to its continuance, perseverance, and perpetuity.

5. Think yet again, this prayer of our Lord on earth is like His prayer in heaven, because of its wisdom. He seeks the best thing, and that which His clients most need, "rather, forgive them." That was the great point in hand; they wanted most of all there and then forgiveness from God.

6. Once more, this memorable prayer of our crucified Lord was like to His universal intercession in the matter of its prevalence.

II. The text is INSTRUCTIVE OF THE CHURCH'S WORK. As Christ was, so His Church is to be in this world.

1. Christ's prayer on the cross was altogether an unselfish one. He does not remember Himself in it. Such ought to be the Church's life-prayer, the Church's active interposition on the behalf of sinners. She ought to live never for her ministers or for herself, but ever for the lost sons of men.

2. Now the prayer of Christ had a great spirituality of aim. You notice that nothing is sought for these people but that which concerns their souls, "Father, forgive them."

3. Our Saviour's prayer teaches the Church that while her spirit should be unselfish, and her aim should be spiritual, the range of her mission is to be unlimited.

4. So, too, the Church should be earnest as Christ was; and if she be so, she will be quick to notice any ground of hope in those she deals with, quick to observe any plea that she may use with God for their salvation.

5. She must be hopeful too, and surely no Church ever had a more hopeful sphere than the Church of this present age. If ignorance be a plea with God, look on the heathen at this day — millions of them never heard Messiah's name. Forgive them, great God, indeed they know not what they do.

III. A word, in conclusion, TO THE UNCONVERTED. Remember your ignorance does not excuse you, or else Christ would not say, "Forgive them"; they must be forgiven, even those that know not what they do, hence they are individually guilty; but still that ignorance of yours gives you just a little gleam of hope. "Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance." But there are some here for whom even Christ Himself could not pray this prayer, in the widest sense at any rate, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," for you have known what you did, and every sermon you hear, and especially every impression that is made upon your understanding and conscience by the gospel, adds to your responsibility, and takes away from you the excuse of not knowing what you do. You know that there is sin and God, and that you cannot serve both. You know that there are the pleasures of evil and the pleasures of heaven, and that you cannot have both.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

This prayer included many. It included all who had any share in the mockery, and crucifixion, and death of Christ. It included the.Roman governor, who had given authority to crucify Him; the Roman soldiers, whose duty it was to see the sentence carried out into execution; the Jewish priests and rulers, who cried out for judgment; the multitude, who were stirred up by their religious guides and rulers. All these various classes were ignorant of the true nature of the deed which they were committing, but all were not equally ignorant. Some knew more than others; and according to their greater knowledge was their guilt, according to their ignorance was their personal share in the prayer offered at the cross. Not one of these knew altogether what he was doing, or how great was the sin in which he was taking part; and each of these individuals or groups of individuals has some one or many to correspond to them in our own day and amongst ourselves in this age. The cross is for ever the sign of the world's darkest crime: it reveals what is lying at the root of all sin; and it opens up the nature of that dread conflict which is ever going on between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God. Christ's prayer to His Father is to be regarded in the further light of a declaration of forgiveness, and an assurance of it. Forgiveness is easier for God to give than for man to take. Forgiveness cannot be received by every one. If a man says he forgives me, I can only accept his word if I believe that I need his forgiveness — in other words, if I am conscious that I have offended him and done something wrong. If I am in my own mind sure that I hare not injured him, I decline to place myself on the footing of a forgiven man. I put away his forgiveness, I refuse to take the benefit of it, and I stand towards him as one claiming to have as much right to forgive him as he to forgive me. And if we transfer this comparison from earth to heaven, and inquire into the forgiveness which comes from God, we shall find that the only channel through which we can receive it is by accepting forgiveness as men who have done wrong, and who know the wrong they have done, and have confessed it and hated it. There are many who have passed a long way through the journey of life before they find out what they have been doing. Youth has often to pass into age before a man truly says, "Remember not the sins of my youth"; the hour of anger has to pass away before a man hears the voice of conscience, "Doest thou well to be angry." Perhaps it is only to-day that we see yesterday's faults, and not until another year may we see the faults of this; the scales fall away from our eyes, and we marvel that follies which are now so plain were not observed by us; we wonder how it was possible for us to do what we did, and not see its true character all the while. Conscience does not arouse us, and it is often not until the voice of memory cries aloud that the soul of a man is awakened, and his past life looks to him as if he had been walking in his sleep. Is it not time for every one to bestir himself, and ask whether he knows what his present life and actions mean? But there is another turn which we may give to the words. We may accept them as expressing our own spirit and our own life. And until we have received them into our hearts as the law of our own being, we have failed to see their true beauty and power. As He was in the world, so are we in the world.

(A. Watson, D. D.)

What makes so wide a difference between Judas and those who carried out what Judas had begun? The answer is in the text: they knew not what they did. Doubtless they knew that He was innocent; but of His person, office, authority, they had no conception. Their ignorance did not wipe out their sin, but it did palliate it. It mitigated the awful blackness of the crime which they wrought. It brought it within the limits of Divine mercy.


1. In matters that concern the soul, much of our ignorance is simply the fruit of neglecting or despising information.

2. A vast amount of religious ignorance springs from a willingness to be misled. Let a book appear that controverts the clearly defined truths of evangelical belief. Let popular clamour lift its voice in wild hue and cry against creeds and dogmas. Multitudes of men are at once ready to fall in with such a drift, not because they have carefully satisfied their minds that the current is bearing them in the right direction, but because it is in accord with what they wish were true.

II. WHAT IS IT WHICH MEN DO NOT KNOW? There is an ignorance of our own doings which is absolutely marvellous. Visiting a factory not long ago I was shown a machine which produces a little article of commerce with an inconceivable rapidity. But the ingenious inventor had contrived an apparatus which registered every one produced. If it were a hundred in every minute, each one was noted by the contrivance that created it. But it is a strange fact that man, with all his powers of consciousness, keeps himself in utter ignorance of much that makes up his action. Our actions flow out from us into the great world so unheeded that they are forgotten as soon as done; as water through the parted marble lips of a statue which does duty as a fountain.

1. Men know not the origin of what they do. Has it never puzzled, while it saddened you, to talk with some friend in the last stages of consumption? The hectic flush if on his cheek. There is an unnatural lustre in his eye. His breathing is short and hurried. A hollow cough continually interrupts his speech. But he tells you that he is perfectly well. Of course he sees these symptoms. He freely acknowledges that they are unfavourable. But then be is thankful that his lungs are wholly unaffected. It is the seat and origin of the disease of which he is ignorant. Precisely identical is the way in which many treat the whole question of sin.

2. Equally is it true that the vast majority of men know not the effects of what they do. How thoughtlessly we sin I We may not think when we scatter sparks into a powder magazine, but it is none the less dangerous to do so.

(Bishop Cheney.)

In 1831, when the cholera first broke out in Hungary, the Sclavic peasants of the north, were fully persuaded that they had been poisoned by the nobles, to get rid of them. They accordingly rose in revolt, and committed the most dreadful excesses. A gentleman who, up to that moment, had been very popular with the poorer classes, was seized by them, dragged from his house into the streets, and beaten for several hours, to make him confess where he had concealed the poison. Weary, at last, with inflicting blows, the frenzied mob carried him to a blacksmith's shop, and applied hot ploughshares to his feet. Exhausted with this excruciating torture, the innocent sufferer, finding all explanations and entreaties vain, fell back from weakness, apparently about to expire, when the dying prayer of his Lord and Saviour escaped his lips: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!" The savage fury of the peasantry was calmed in a moment, as if by a miracle; and convinced of the innocence of their victim, and the enormity of their crime, they fled in terror from the place.

And cast lots
Christ had been condemned to death, and His property was being disposed of. He had no real estate. He was born in a stranger's barn, and buried in a borrowed sepulchre. His personal property was of but little value. His coat was the only thing to come into consideration. His shoes had been worn out in the long journey for the world's redemption. Who shall have His coat? Some one says: "Let us toss up in a lottery and decide this matter." "I have it!" said one of the inhuman butchers. "I have it!" "Upon My vesture did they cast lots." And there, on that spot, were born all the lotteries the world has seen. On that spot of cruelty and shame and infamy there was born the Royal Havana lottery, in which some of you may have had tickets. There was born the famous New York lottery, which pretended to have over £144,400 worth of cash prizes. There was born the Topeka, Kansas, Laramier City, Wyoming Territory lotteries. There was born the Louisville lottery, with diamonds and pearls, and watches by the bushel. There was born the Georgia lottery, for the east and the west. There was born the Louisiana lottery, sanctioned by influential names. There was born the Kentucky lottery, for the city school of Frankfort. All the lotteries that have swindled the world were born there. Without any exception all of them moral outrages, whether sanctioned by legislative authority, or antagonized by it, and moral outrages though respectable people have sometimes damaged their property with them, and blistered their immortal souls for eternity. Under the curse of the lottery tens of thousands of people are losing their fortunes and losing their souls. What they call a "wheel of fortune" is a Juggernaut crushing out the life of their immortal nature. In one of the insolvent courts of the country it was found that in one village £40,000 had been expended for lotteries. All the officers of the celebrated United States Bank which failed were found to have expended the embezzled moneys in lottery tickets. A man won £10,000 in a lottery. He sold his ticket for £8,500, and yet had not enough to pay charges against him for tickets. He owed the brokers £9,000. The editor of a newspaper writes: "My friend was blessed with £4,000 in a lottery, and from that time he began to go astray, and yesterday he asked of me ninepence to pay for a night's lodging." A man won £4,000 in a lottery. Flattered by his success, he bought another ticket and won still more largely. Another ticket and still more largely. Then, being fairly started on the road to ruin, here and there a loss did not seem to agitate him, and he went on and on until the select men of the village pronounced him a vagabond and picked up his children from the street, half-starved and almost naked. A hard-working machinist won £400 in a lottery. He was thrilled with the success, disgusted with his hard work, opened a rum grocery, got debauched in morals, and was found dead at the foot of his rum casks. Oh, it would take a pen plucked from the wing of the destroying angel, and dipped in human blood, to describe this lottery business. A suicide was found having in his pocket a card of address showing he was boarding at a grog-shop. Beside that he had three lottery tickets and a leaf from Seneca's "Morals " in behalf of the righteousness of self-murder. After a lottery in England there were fifty suicides of those who held unlucky numbers. There are people who have lottery tickets in their pockets — tickets which, if they have not wisdom enough to tear up or burn up, will be their admission tickets at the door of the lost world. The brazen gate will swing open and they will show their tickets, and they will go in, and they will go down. The wheel of their eternal fortune may turn very slowly, but they will find that the doom of those who reject the teachings of God and imperil their immortal souls is their only prize.

(Dr. Talmage.)

Gambling is risking something more or less valuable with the idea of winning mote than you hazard. Playing at cards is not gambling unless a stake be put up, while on the other hand a man may gamble without cards, without dice, without billiards, without ten-pin alley. It may not be bagatelle, it may not be billiards, it may not be any of the ordinary instruments of gambling, it may be a glass of wine. It may be a hundred shares in a prosperous railroad company. I do not care what the instruments of the game are, or what the stakes are that are put up — if you propose to get anything without paying for it in time, or skill, or money, unless you get it by inheritance, you get it either by theft or by gambling. A traveller said he travelled one thousand miles on Western waters, and at every waking moment, from the starting to the closing of his journey, he was in the presence of gambling. A man, if he is disposed to this vice, will find something to accommodate him; if not in the low restaurant behind the curtain, on the table covered with greasy cards, or in the steamboat cabin, where the bloated wretch with rings in his ears winks in an unsuspecting traveller, or in the elegant parlour, the polished drawing-room, the mirrored and pictured halls of wealth and beauty. This vice destroys through unhealthy stimulants. We all at times like excitements. There are a thousand voices within us that demand excitements. They are healthful, they are inspiriting, they are God-given. The desire is for excitement; but look out for any kind of excitement which, after the gratification of the appetite, hurls the man back into destructive reactions. Then the excitement is wicked. Beware of an agitation which, like a rough musician, in order to call out the tune, plays so hard he breaks down the instrument. God never yet made a man strong enough to endure gambling excitements without damage. It is no surprise that many a man seated at the game has lost and then begun to sweep off imaginary gold from the table. He sat down sane. He rose a maniac. The keepers of gambling saloons school themselves into placidity. They are fat, and round, and rollicking, and obese; but those who go to play for the sake of winning are thin, and pale, and exhausted, and nervous, and sick, and have the heart-disease, and are liable any moment to drop down dead. That is the character of nine out of ten of the gamblers. You cannot be healthy and practise that vice. It is killing to all industry. Do you notice that, just as soon as a man gets that vice on him, he stops his work? Do you not know that this vice has dulled the saw of the carpenter, and cut the band of the factory-wheel, and sunk the cargo, and broken the teeth of the farmer's rake, and sent a strange lightning to the battery of the philosopher. What a dull thing is a plough to a farmer, when, in one night in the village restaurant, he can make or lose the price of a whole harvest I The whole theory of gambling is hostile to industry. Every other occupation yields something to the community. The street sweeper pays for what he gets by the cleanliness of the streets; the cat pays for what it eats by clearing the house of vermin; the fly pays for the sweets it extracts from the dregs of a cup by purifying the air and keeping back pestilence; but the gambler gives nothing. I recall that last sentence. He does make a return, but it is in the destruction of the man whom he fleeces, disgrace to his wife, ruin to his children, death to his soul.

(Dr. Talmadge.)

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