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The next objection is founded upon the Lord's Prayer. In this Christ has taught us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Matt. 6:14). Here it is objected, that if a person should become entirely sanctified, he could no longer use this clause of this prayer, which, it is said, was manifestly designed to be used by the church to the end of time. Upon this prayer I remark:
1. Christ has taught us to pray for entire, in the sense of perpetual sanctification. "Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).
2. He designed, that we should expect this prayer to be answered, or that we should mock Him by asking what we do not believe is agreeable to His will, and that too which we know could not consistently be granted; and that we are to repeat this insult to God as often as we pray.
3. The petition for forgiveness of our trespasses, it is plain, must apply to past sins, and not to sins we are committing at the time we make the prayer; for it would be absurd and abominable to pray for the forgiveness of a sin which we are then in the act of committing.
4. This prayer cannot properly be made in respect to any sin of which we have not repented; for it would be highly abominable in the sight of God, to pray for the forgiveness of a sin of which we did not repent.
6. But at the very time, it would be highly proper for him to make this prayer in relation to all his past sins, and that too, although he may have repented of, and confessed them, and prayed for their forgiveness, a thousand times before. This does not imply a doubt, whether God has forgiven the sins of which we have repented; but it is only a renewal of our grief and humiliation for our sins, and a fresh acknowledgment of, and casting ourselves upon, His mercy. God may forgive when we repent, before we ask Him, and while we abhor ourselves so much as to have no heart to ask for forgiveness; but His having forgiven us does not render the petition improper.
7. And although his sins may be forgiven, he ought still to confess them, to repent of them, both in this world and in the world to come. And it is perfectly suitable, so long as he lives in the world, to say the least, to continue to repent, and repeat the request for forgiveness. For myself, I am unable to see why this passage should be made a stumbling block; for if it be improper to pray for the forgiveness of sins of which we have repented, then it is improper to pray for forgiveness at all. And if this prayer cannot be used with propriety in reference to past sins of which we have already repented, it cannot properly be used at all, except upon the absurd supposition, that we are to pray for the forgiveness of sins which we are now committing, and of which we have not repented. And if it be improper to use this form of prayer in reference to all past sins of which we have repented, it is just as improper to use it in reference to sins committed today or yesterday, of which we have repented.
Another objection is founded on: "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body" (James 3:1, 2). Upon this passage I remark:
1. The term rendered masters here, may be rendered teachers, critics, or censors, and be understood either in a good or bad sense. The apostle exhorts the brethren not to be many masters, because if they are so, they will incur the greater condemnation: "for," says he, "in many things we offend all." The fact that we all offend is here urged as a reason why we should not be many masters; which shows that the term masters is here used in a bad sense. "Be not many masters," for if we are masters, "we shall receive the greater condemnation," because we are all great offenders. Now I understand this to be the simple meaning of this passage; do not many (or any) of you become censors, or critics, and set yourselves up to judge and condemn others. For inasmuch as you have all sinned yourselves, and we are all great offenders, we shall receive the greater condemnation, if we set ourselves up as censors. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matt. 7:2).