Ms 89, 1898

1898

Ms 89, 1898

How Oft Shall I Forgive My Brother?

NP

July 31, 1898

Portions of this manuscript are published in RH 01/03/1899. +Note

In the 18th chapter of Matthew Christ gave to His disciples most precious lessons in regard to the organization and order of the church which was being established. To the question of the disciples, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus “called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. ... And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. And whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” [Verses 1-3, 5, 6.] Ms89-1898.1

We should read carefully the lesson that follows in verses 7-14. “Moreover,” Christ continued, “if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear thee, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto thee, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Verses 15-18.] Ms89-1898.2

The specific directions here given are very largely disregarded, and dissension is the result. Christ knew the perversity of the hearts of men—even of those who should be brought into church capacity, and He outlined the course to be pursued. He knew that this, if followed, would close the door to dissension, misunderstanding, alienation, strife, and bitterness. Ms89-1898.3

Christ is the Instructor of His people. He would have them sit at His feet as little children and learn the lessons that are so essential for them to know. “Verily I say unto you,” He said, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” [Verses 3, 4.] Ms89-1898.4

Strife for superiority is the result of yielding to the temptations of the enemy. By exalting himself in those who will listen to his suggestions Satan is carrying forward the same work which he begun in heaven. No man should cherish the idea that he must be first, that he must be above his brethren, that his voice must be the voice in counsel, and in the plans laid. When man places himself where God should be, he is just where Satan is pleased to have him. He measures his abilities with those of his brethren, and places an undue importance upon his own labors. He yields to the temptation to criticize his brother, and places but little value upon his brother’s labors, while he exalts his own as superior. Ms89-1898.5

It takes time and patience and much prayer to grow in Christlikeness of character, but it is a very easy matter to accept the attributes of Satan and fall into his ways. It is an easy matter to become accusers of the brethren, and to set ourselves up as a standard of character; and the deception of Satan will be complete unless decided resistance is made against the first approach of the enemy. Those who have the grace of Christ in the heart will think no evil, speak no evil. What a blessing it is to us all that we may speak often to each other and yet not exalt our own attainments as superior. Ms89-1898.6

That which finite beings call a success is often a decided failure because men lift up their souls unto vanity. Spiritual pride is a great evil in the church. Unless God is sought in prayer, unless His converting grace comes to the soul, there will be no inclination to oppose Satan’s wily representations. The truly great are those who reveal the least disposition to exalt themselves, who have the most patient trust in God, and make Him their fear and their dependence. It is God alone who is to be exalted. He alone, through His Son, Jesus Christ, can put enmity between man and Satan. To man He says: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” [Verse 3.] It is an impossibility for man in his own strength to merit at the hands of God the righteousness of Christ. A curse is pronounced against those who trust in man, and make flesh their arm. If they do this, they will surely be disappointed. Ms89-1898.7

“Again I say unto you,” Christ continued, “That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” [Verses 19, 20.] Precious promise! Ms89-1898.8

The apostle John exhorts us: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” [1 John 3:18.] Satan is very zealous to sow the seeds of dissension and strife, that we may not love one another. He desires to see us become weak spiritually, because we do not have the truth in our hearts, because we do not have that faith which works by love and purifies the soul from all selfishness, all hardness of heart, all moral defilement and spiritual pride. Ms89-1898.9

“We know that we have passed from death unto life,” John continues, “because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whoso hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children let us not love in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Ms89-1898.10

“Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” [Verses 14-24.] Ms89-1898.11

It is our privilege to realize the promise made: “And this is the confidence we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, we know that we have the petition that we desired of him. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death, I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not: but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” [1 John 5:14-18.] Ms89-1898.12

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” [Malachi 3:16-18.] Ms89-1898.13

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. Ms89-1898.14

“But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence, and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, and said, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not, but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? and his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” [Matthew 18:21-35.] Ms89-1898.15

This parable is designed to show the spirit of tenderness and compassion which man should manifest for his fellow man. Christ is likened to a certain king, who, moved with compassion, forgave the debt of his servant. But this man who had been treated so mercifully dealt with his fellow laborer in an altogether different manner. He did not show mercy. He heeded not the request to be patient. He did not do to the afflicted one as his master had done to him. Ms89-1898.16

Christ came to this world to give His life the just for the unjust. The sinner cannot save himself. He is under the condemnation of the broken law. The pardon of the king represents a pardon which is supernatural, a divine forgiveness of all sin. The debtor cannot render an equivalent for this. He has nothing to give. This is the reason why Christ clothed His divinity with humanity. He desired to give in His own life an example of how human beings should exercise forbearance toward humanity. Ms89-1898.17

The question which Peter asked the Saviour was of great interest to him, for he had been having some unpleasant chapters in his experience. Therefore Christ presented temporal things to represent the spiritual. The subject of property was brought before the people to illustrate the manner of dealing that should exist between man and his fellow man. Ms89-1898.18

It is not to be thought that this parable encourages indolence. The Word of God declares, If a man will not work, neither shall he eat. The Lord does not require the hard working man to support those who are not diligent, who waste hours and days in doing nothing to sustain themselves. But there is an unavoidable poverty, and we are to manifest tenderness and compassion toward those who are unfortunate. There is a waste of time, a lack of effort, which bring to poverty and want. If these faults are not seen and corrected, all that might be done in their behalf is like putting treasure into a basket with holes. Ms89-1898.19

In the prayer which Christ taught His disciples, He said, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” [Matthew 6:12.] This is not to be understood to mean that in order to be forgiven our sins we are not to require our just dues from our debtors. But if through unwise management they have placed themselves where they cannot pay, they are not to be treated harshly, oppressed, or placed in prison. Ms89-1898.20

There would be no virtue in advocating that theft or fraudulent actions shall go unpunished, but there are matters connected with the church that are to be kept within its own borders. Personal revenge is not becoming a saint of God. If he is abused, he is to take it patiently; if defrauded of that which is his just due, he is not to appeal to unbelievers in courts of justice. Rather let him suffer loss and wrong. The one wronged may feel injured, and may be tempted to cause oppression to his fellow man, but if he follows this course he reveals that he has not the spirit of Christ. God will deal with the unworthy church member who defrauds his brother and the cause of God. The Christian need not contend for his rights. Let the Lord deal with the one who violates these rights. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” [Romans 12:19.] A straight account of all these matters, and for all this, the Lord declares, He will avenge. He will bring every work into judgment. Ms89-1898.21

The lesson to be learned is that we must have the spirit of true forgiveness—even as Christ forgave the sinner who could in no case pay the enormous debt. We are to bear in mind that Christ has paid an infinite price for the souls of men, that they are Christ’s purchased possession. When the debtor pleaded for delay with the promise, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all, to his great surprise the sentence was revoked. The whole debt was cancelled. He was filled with joy, and felt that a great weight was lifted from him. And he soon had an opportunity to pattern after the Master, who had forgiven and cancelled his debt. The test came, and he demanded of his fellow servant his due which was very small. Ms89-1898.22

The fellow servant made an appeal similar to that which he himself had so recently made to the householder, but without a similar result. He who had so recently been forgiven was not kind and tenderhearted and pitiful. The goodness, mercy, and love shown to him he did not exercise in dealing with his fellow laborer. The goodness shown him only hardened his heart. He demanded all that he considered his due, and carried into effect the sentence which had been so graciously revoked for him. All the pleas of his fellow man for patience and forbearance were refused. The small sum owed him was all that the ungrateful servant could keep before his mind. Ms89-1898.23

The Lord God of heaven sees not as man seeth. The spirit of forgiveness is to be cherished. “If thy brother trespass against thee,” He says, “rebuke him.” [Luke 17:3.] The trespass may be against you or some other soul whom Christ has purchased with His own blood. These wrongs are not to be passed by as righteousness. It is only right that indignation be felt against wrongdoing, because Christ is dishonored thereby. We are not permitted to let sin pass as righteousness. Sin is to be called by its right name, and is to be plainly laid out before the wrongdoer. The Lord has commanded us not to suffer wrong upon our brother. Let no man charge him with being a faultfinder or an accuser. In the church, order must be maintained. God needs faithful sentinels. Ms89-1898.24

The apostle Paul charges us: “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” [Philippians 2:1-5; 1:27-29.] Ms89-1898.25

Again he says in his charge to Timothy: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God: and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts will they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” [2 Timothy 3:16-4:5.] Ms89-1898.26

Again he says: “There are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers. ... Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. ... They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” [Titus 1:10, 13, 16.] Ms89-1898.27

There is a work to be done in faithful dealing one with another, that sin may not pass as righteousness. Plain facts must be stated, that evil workers may not be left to deceive through false statements. This work is not to be neglected. Said Christ to His disciples, “Behold I send you forth as lambs among wolves,” who claim to be religious but who are not. [Luke 10:3.] The wolves here referred to are those who have entertained a wolfish disposition to tear and devour the flock of God. But if these very wolves will see their wrong, and will humble themselves before God, if they will put on their robes of Christ’s righteousness, He will accept their repentance and transform their characters. Ms89-1898.28

The Lord would not have those called the lambs and the sheep of his pasture who by their course of falsehood and misrepresentation and revenge are seeking to devour other sheep. When Christ warned the priests and Pharisees, their pride rose up, and because they were reproved, they became so angry that they determined to kill him. The pride of man makes his anger revengeful. He will not be convicted by righteousness because of his wrong dealing with his fellow men. But the law of forgiveness is to be exercised. It is to spring into life whenever occasion demands it. Ms89-1898.29

Too often when wrongs have been reproved again and again, and the wrongdoer confesses his wrong, the one who has suffered becomes weary, and thinks he has forgiven quite enough. But the Saviour has given us an example how we should deal with those that err, when they show repentance. If thy brother trespass against thee, He says, rebuke him: and if he repent, forgive him. Do not hold him off as unworthy of your confidence. Consider thyself lest thou also be tempted. Bear in mind that none but Christ can read the heart. By Him actions are weighed. Ms89-1898.30

The church should avoid that prejudice that rises like a flash when political subjects, which cross the opinions they have cherished, are introduced. National antipathies and sectarian feelings are not to be held by anyone. Those who stand under the banner of Christ are to stand under no other banner. They are to acknowledge the supreme authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords. They are not to appeal to Caesar or Pilate. In His own good time Christ will avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him. Christ has been the uniting stone, the chief corner stone in all ages. Ms89-1898.31

The patriarchs, the Levitical priesthood, the Christian churches, all find their center in Christ. He is to be all and in all. “The grace of God, that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” [Titus 2:11-14.] Ms89-1898.32

Paul asks, “Is Christ divided?” [1 Corinthians 1:13.] Have we not one spiritual Head? When my heart is overwhelmed, then pray, “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” [Psalm 61:2.] Precious is His all atoning sacrifice, His blood shed in our behalf. Precious is His all-atoning merits, precious His sanctifying righteousness. Precious is His infinite fullness and sufficiency. “Ye are complete in him.” [Colossians 2:10.] “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” [John 1:16.] All other foundation is shifting sand. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female. We are all one in Christ Jesus, and Christ is our head. Ms89-1898.33

Divisions in the church are soul-disheartening. In the seamless robe is a representation of the unity that should exist in the church of Christ; but how sadly is that robe disfigured by rents and tears. Christ is dishonored by the controversies that arise. Brother regards brother coldly. The warm love of a living Saviour does not bind heart to heart. Christ is humiliated in the person of his professed people. Ministers are not what they should be. They do not have that faith that works by love, and purifies the soul. All true believers will be one. The cross of Christ is the pledge of their fellowship and union. The time must come when the watchmen see eye to eye; when the trumpet shall give a certain sound, when “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” any more. [Isaiah 11:13.] Ms89-1898.34