QUESTION 105. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?

ANSWER: In the fifth petition, which is, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," we pray, That God, for Christ's sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because, by his grace, we are enabled, from the heart, to forgive others.

Q. 1. Why is this petition connected with the former, by the copulative conjunction and?

A. To teach us, that we can have no outward comfort with God's blessing, unless our sins are pardoned, and our persons accepted in Christ, 1 Cor. 3:22, 23.

Q. 2. What are we to understand by debts in this petition?

A. By debts we are to understand our sins, whether original or actual, of omission or commission, Luke 11:4.

Q. 3. Why are these called debts?

A. Because of the debt of punishment we owe to the justice of God, on account of them, Rom. 6:23 -- "The wages of sin is death."

Q. 4. Can we pay any part of this debt to the justice of God?

A. No; "neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction for it, Psalm 130:3;"[190] or pay the least farthing of it, Matt. 18:25.

Q. 5. What other debt are we naturally owing, besides the debt of punishment as transgressors?

A. We likewise owe a debt of obedience to the law as a covenant; in which we are also utterly insolvent; "being unto every good work reprobate," Tit. 1:16.

Q. 6. What are we to pray for with reference to our sins or debts?

A. That God, for Christ's sake, would freely pardon them all.

Q. 7. Whose prerogative is it to pardon?

A. It is God's only, Micah 7:18.

Q. 8. From what spring or fountain in God does pardon flow?

A. From his own gracious nature, Psalm 86:5, and sovereign will, Ex. 33:19.

Q. 9. What is it for God to pardon?

A. It is to "acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin, Rom. 3:26."[191]

Q. 10. For whose sake does he pardon?

A. Only for Christ's sake.

Q. 11. What is it for God to pardon for Christ's sake?

A. It is to vent his pardoning grace "through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, Rom. 3:25."[192]

Q. 12. Could God pardon sin, without any respect to the obedience and satisfaction of Christ?

A. No; because justice behoved to be satisfied; for, "without shedding of blood is no remission," Heb. 9:22.

Q. 13. What is the extent of pardoning grace?

A. It extends to all our sins, Psalm 103:3.

Q. 14. In what manner should we expect that God will pardon all our sins?

A. We should expect that he will do it freely, for his own name's sake, Psalm 25:11.

Q. 15. How can God be said to pardon our sins freely, when he does it on account of the surety-righteousness imputed to us?

A. God's accepting of Christ as our Surety, and his fulfilling all righteousness in our room, were both of them acts of rich, free, and sovereign grace, Psalm 89:19; Luke 12:50. Though the pardon of our sins be of debt to Christ, yet it is free to us, Eph. 1:7.

Q. 16. When a believer prays for the forgiveness of his daily sins, does he pray for a new and formal pardon of them?

A. Whatever may be the believer's practice as to this matter, at some times, through the prevalence of darkness and unbelief; yet it is certain, that the pardon of sin, in justification, is one perfect act, completed at once, and never needs to be repeated, Micah 7:19 -- "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."

Q. 17. If daily sins are already forgiven in justification, in so far as the not imputing of them is secured in it; why is the believer here directed to pray for the pardon of them?

A. As the evidences of pardon may be frequently eclipsed, and fatherly displeasure incurred, by our daily failings; it is therefore our duty to pray, that God's fatherly displeasure may be removed, and the joy of his salvation restored, by his "giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness, Psalm 51:8-10, 12."[193]

Q. 18. Upon what ground may we be encouraged to ask and expect from God, the intimation of the pardon of our daily sins and failings?

A. Because, by his grace, we are enabled, from the heart, to forgive others.

Q. 19. What is it we are to forgive others?

A. Personal injuries; or injuries as committed against ourselves, Matt. 18:15.

Q. 20. Have personal injuries an offence done to God in them?

A. They certainly have; and it is our duty to pray that God would forgive it, Psalm 35:13.

Q. 21. In what manner should we forgive personal injuries?

A. We should do it from the heart.

Q. 22. What is it to forgive our fellow-creatures from the heart?

A. It is not only to lay aside all resentment against them; but to wish and do them all offices of kindness that lie in our power, as if they had never done us any injury, Matt. 5:44.

Q. 23. Have we naturally such a disposition in us?

A. No; God enables us to do it by his grace.

Q. 24. To what are we naturally inclined, with reference to personal injuries?

A. We are naturally inclined to harbour hatred and malice in our hearts on account of them, and to revenge them if we can; as was the case with Esau against his brother Jacob, Gen. 27:41.

Q. 25. What should excite us to the duty of forgiving personal injuries?

A. The examples of this disposition recorded in scripture for our imitation; such as, the example of Joseph, Gen. 50:17, 21; of Stephen, Acts 7:60; and of our Lord himself, Luke 23:34.

Q. 26. Can it ever be dishonourable to forgive a personal injury?

A. No; it is a man's glory to pass over a transgression, Prov. 19:11.

Q. 27. Can forgiving the person infer an approbation of his crime?

A. No; we may forgive the person, and yet charge his sin close home upon his conscience, as Joseph did to his brethren, Gen. 45:4, and 50:20.

Q. 28. What if forgiveness imbolden the offender in the like injuries for the future? 4. The fear of this should not be an excuse for omitting the present duty of forgiving; because we should leave events to the Lord.

Q. 29. When we say, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;" do we mean to state a comparison between our forgiving others, and God's forgiving us?

A. No; there is an infinite disproportion between the one and the other; the injuries our fellow-creatures do us are but few and small, in comparison of the innumerable and aggravated crimes we are guilty of against God, Matt. 18 verses 24th and 28th compared.

Q. 30. Can we consistently with the scope of this petition, make our forgiveness of others, the ground and reason of God's forgiving us?

A. No; for this would be to put our forgiveness of others in the room of Christ's righteousness, on the account of which alone it is that God forgives us.

Q. 31. What then, is the true meaning of these words as we forgive our debtors?

A. The meaning is, that we take encouragement to hope, that God will forgive us the sins of our daily walk, from this evidence, or "testimony in ourselves, that we, from the heart, forgive others their offences, Matt. 6:14, 15, -- ` If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.'"[194]

Q. 32. What may we learn from the verses just now quoted, for illustrating the meaning of this petition?

A. We may learn this from them, as the meaning of it, that our forgiving others, may be an evidence of God's forgiving us: and that our being of an implacable and unrelenting disposition towards our fellow creatures, who have injured us, is a sad sign, that our own sins are not forgiven us of God, Matt. 18:35.

[190] Larger Catechism, Question 194.

[191] Ibid.

[192] Larger Catechism, Question 194.

[193] Ibid.

[194] Larger Catechism, Question 194.

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