And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.…
I. Whether God can forgive sins or not, it is certain that NO OTHER BEING CAN. We have no right to forgive one another. We cannot forgive one another. Forgiveness, real and complete, can neither go nor come, can neither be given nor accepted, between man and man. As I have said before, God would have to die first. Eternity would have to end first. This is what conscience says to-day, will say to-morrow, and will say for ever. I am almost ashamed to be insisting upon any. thing so elementary and axiomatic. But I dare not be ashamed of it. There is Something in the air which predisposes us to think lightly of sin. And I must warn you against it; and warn myself against it. Questions of conscience are only in part subjective and social. They are between us and the Unseen; between us and the Eternal; between us and the All-Just; between us and the All-Terrible. I do not see nor touch Him yet. But when this tired breast stops heaving, and this tired pulse stops beating, quick as thought, quicker than lightning, I shall be with Him, face to face. Only one question shall I then care to have answered: Can He forgive? I do not, dare not, can not forgive myself; can He forgive me?
II. Let us ask, and answer this question now: Can God forgive? In the dainty, superficial thinking of our time, which comes of so much self-indulgence, softening the mental and moral fibre, Divine forgiveness is easy. It is assumed that suffering must cease some time. A bold assumption, in the face of a creation which has always sighed and groaned. If God is not impeached or disturbed by suffering to-day, why need He be to-morrow, or next day, or the next? Much is said also of our insignificance, and that, too, by men who, in other relations, make great account of the dignity of human nature. God, it is said, can suffer no loss at our hands. We cannot rob Him of any treasure. Somebody once asked Daniel Webster what was the most important thought that ever occupied his mind. The propriety of the question hardly equalled the solidity of the answer. "The most important thought that ever occupied my mind," said he, "was that of my individual responsibility to God." Psychology admits no possibility of forgiveness. On purely rational grounds, it is inconceivable. Plato could see nothing ahead but either penalty, or penance. Some speakers and writers of our time, affecting philosophy, are eloquent about work and wages, being and condition, character and destiny. Very well, gentlemen: but do you know what you are saying? You hate our iron-clad orthodoxy. But our creed, as you must yourselves admit, has some mercy in it; while your creed has no mercy in it at all. To be consistent, you should get rid of your idea of a personal God, as perhaps you have already. As you put things, this universe might just as well be governed by some impersonal Force. The laws are all alike, whether physical or moral. Atonement suggests and warrants the declaration that "God is Love." Somehow, on the basis of this atonement, and in pursuance of its purpose, God forgives. What is forgiveness? Not mere remission of penalty. Moral penalty never can be remitted without moral change. To forgive an offence that I know will be repeated is to be accessory to that offence, before and after. Divine forgiveness can go no farther than human forgiveness, and achieve no more. It must observe the same ethical laws. It must have the same high ethical tone. "Go, and sin no more," is always the condition of forgiveness.
(R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.