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but makes known to us a remedy for this universal evil : “If we acknowledge our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive them unto us.” (1 John i.) Let, then, the Christian exclaim with joy, in the Psalmist's words, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me (my interior existence, my personal being) extol His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all His benefits. Who mercifully forgiveth all thy trespasses, who healeth all thy diseases. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion. Praise the Lord, all His works ; in every place of His dominion, O my soul, bless thou the Lord.”
ETWEEN the rugged steeps of arrogance
and presumption, and the abyss of dejection and despondency, we pilgrims of
this earth, guided by the Divine grace, must preserve the only true, the narrow midway of holy humility. That we may never ascend the giddy heights of self-sufficiency, wherefrom the proud man will inevitably be
precipitated into his lamentable nothingness, we are warned by our daily prayers :
“ Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses ;" they lead us to the consideration of our constant dependence, and of our sinful unworthiness. Thus may we with truth ever acknowledge, O Lord, that all real good is from Thee, and all evil from us; the good that is ours is Thy own gift, the evil is our own work.
Yet this acknowledgment must not lead us into dejection and sad lowness of mind, so as to cause us to shrink into a corner, and there exclaim, 'I am nothing, do nothing, and am capable of nothing;' for from nothing, nothing will for ever be produced ; and thus all active thought will be destroyed. This pretended self-annihilating humility was the assumed virtue of a certain class of Pharisees, who, with head cast down, and with eyes well-nigh closed, crept along the walls of the houses. No sooner, however, was their nothingness despised, than it instantly started up, and proved itself a very irritable and obstinate nothingness ; similar to the yet existing sect of the Nihilists, who have always shewn themselves self-willed, selfish, and arrogant.
The Apostle indeed teaches : “If any one believeth he is any thing, whereas he is nothing, the same deceiveth himself.” But he here alludes only to the proud. “Whosoever,' he would say, “thinks he is something absolute, his own master, and has his power, his justice, and his virtue purely from himself, he is undoubtedly his own deceiver ; since the true, the essential, the happy existence and life is above us allGod alone. But the something which we really are, is our created and limited being, in as far as we have been produced by God's power, and are destined to attain the highest excellence by the co-operation of our own will. That we may, therefore, neither grow arrogant in pride, nor be cast down by dejection, but that we may always be and continue-in humility and practical truth —the right and lawful something, we are here instructed in the way which leads from the abyss ; we are placed before God as beings who may effect great good, but good which, when effected, will, as it is observed by St. Gregory of Nyssa, belong to God alone. And this
· These religionists are still found in some villages towards the south.
is what we express in the conditional petition : "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us."
And in this prayer, which is the word which gives to it its tone? Doubtless the word “as ;' and observe, this word occurs twice in the Lord's Prayer, but in opposite significations. In the petition, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” the will of God is constituted the rule and standard of our will on earth; in this, however, where we pray, “Forgive us, as we forgive others,” our conduct would appear to be placed as the rule for the conduct of God. And this is the observation of St. Gregory of Nyssa. The order of things,' says he, 'is in some measure here reversed; so that we presume to hope that God will imitate our mode of action ; for we pray, “What we, O Lord, have done, do Thou also ; we have forgiven, do Thou also forgive.”' Or, as Theophylactus explains it: God takes us for His examples and models; so that He acts to us as we have acted to others.'
Yet this must not be so unconditionally received, as though the little word 'as’ were truly the rule which we appoint for the Lord our God. His will is ever our law, but our will can never be a law for Him. Thus has Christ taught us : “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God will never imitate us ; but imitation must ever be the study of the creature.
If, then, we reverse the order, and profess that we are willing to forgive our enemies, as God forgives us, our petition appears in the form of similitude or a proportion, where God stands in the same relation to us, as we to our neighbours. If, then, God's conduct towards us be the true rule of our conduct towards our neighbour,' we should ever keep the conduct of our God in view. Now, in every sin, we find, in the first place, an opposition against the will, the right, and the honour of God, which is called an offence ; and also the opposition of God against this opposition, from which arises our guilt. For, as the Divine will, which is one with pure love, is ever constant, it mani. fests itself, in opposition to lies, as the Divine wrath, which again assumes its expression of love, as soon as the creature renounces his treason; and this is promised in the words, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” Yes, this is the ground of our fear, no less than of our hope, that the benevolent love and the just wrath of God are not two opposed properties, but only expressions of His one holy will, according to the conduct of the creature to Him.
Let us now turn to ourselves, and inquire what has befallen us, and what we are required to do, when we have been injured by our neighbour. The offence we have received is a contradiction' to our will and to our right. This offence (differently from an offence against God) is committed when our neighbour has insulted or injured us, corporally or spiritually has invaded our right, has frustrated our designs,—all which against God is inconceivable. The result of this offence is our opposition to the injury suffered, and consequently our anger. But how shall this anger be regulated ? It must exist only in our righteous and truth-loving will, without hatred, without passion ; so that we may continae in that upright mind, which may be termed magnanimity, no less than humility, prepared for reconci