George Adam Smith.

The forgiveness of sins, and other sermons online

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Gladys Isaacson













f5i •


Copyright, Ip04, Sy

A. C. Armstrong & Son

Published, Nov,, igo4

Second printing, March, ipoi

Third printing, October, 1905

.gi:fi op



These Sermons, first preached from the pulpit
of Queen's Cross Free Church, Aberdeen, I
dedicate to raf old comrades in her fellowship
and ministry, in remembrance of our com-
munion in the service of God, and with
lasting affection and gratitude.





The Forgiybness of Sins, - - - i

The forgiveness of our sins according to the
riches of His grace. Ephisians i. 7.


The Word of God, - - - - 26

The Fear of the Lord is clean, enduring Bar
ever. Psalm xiz. 9.

Temptation, - - - - - Ji

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into th«
wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Matthbw iv. I.




Our Lord's Example in Prayer, - 69

And it came to pass, as He was praying in a
certain place, that, when He ceased, one of
His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us
to pray, even as John also taught his disciples.

Luke xi. i.


While ye have the Light, - - 89

Man goeth forth unto his work and to his
labour until the evening. Psalm civ. 23.

While ye have the Light, believe in the Light,
that ye may become the children of Light.

John xii. 36.

The Two Wills, - . • . 105

When He was accused by the chief priests
and elders, He answered nothing. Then saith
Pilate unto Him, Hearest thou not how
many things they witness against thee ? And
He gave him no answer, not even to one
word : insomuch that the governor marvelled
greatly. ...

Now the chief priests and the elders pcf-
suaded the multitudes that they should ask for



Barabbaa, and destroy Jesus. But the governor
answered and said unto them. Whether of the
twain will ye that I release unto you ? And
they said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them.
What then shall I do unto Jesus, which ii
called Christ? They all say, Let him be
crucified. And he said, Why what evil hath
he done ? But they cried out exceedingly,
saying, Let him be crucified !

Matthew xxvii. 12-14 ; 20-23.


The Moral Meaning of Hope, - - 121

But according to His promise, we look for
new heavens and a new earth, wherein
dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved,
feeing that ye look for these things, give
diligence that ye may be found in peace,
without spot and blameless in His sight.

2 Pbtbr iii. I3» 14.

The Good Samaritan, - - -139

But he, desiring to justify himself, said unto
Jesus, And who is my neighbour ? Jesus made
answer and said, A certain man was going
down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell
among robbers, which both stripped him and
beat him, and departed, leaving him half-dead.

LVKB X. l^S.




To Him that Overcometh, • - 156

To him will I give to eat of the tree of lift^
which is in the Paradise of God. . .
He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit
down with me on my throne, as I also over-
came and sat down with my Father on Hit
throne. Rkvblation ii. 7, 11, 17, 26, *8 ;
iii. 5, 12, 21.

Esau, - - - - 174

Lest there be any . . . profane person, as
Esau, who for one mess of meat sold hit
own birthright. Hbbrbws xii. 16.


Gideon. I., - - - 1^2

And the angel of the Lord came and sat
under the terebinth which was in Ophrah,
that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite : and
his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the
winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
And the angel of the Lord appeared unto
him, and said unto him, The Lord is with
thee, thou mighty man of valour. And
Gideon said unto him, Oh my lord, if the
Lord be with us, why then is all this be&llca



OS? ind where be all His wondrous worb
which our fathers told ns of, saying. Did
not the Lord bring us up from Egypt ? but
now the Lord hath cast us off, and delivered
ns into the hand of Midian. And the Lord
looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy
might, and thou shalt save Israel from the
hand of Midian : have not I sent thee I
And he said unto him. Oh Lord, where-
with shall I save Israel ? behold, my family
is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the
least in my &ther*s house. And the Lord
said unto him. Surely I will be with thee, and
thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
Judges vi. 11-16.

Gideon. IL, - - - 206

And it came to pass the same night, that
the Lord said unto him, Arise, get thee
down against the camp ; for I have delivered
it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go
down, go thou with Purah thy servant
down to the camp : and thou shalt hear
what they say ; and afterward shall thine
hands be strengthened to go down against
the camp. Then went he down with Purah
his servant unto the outermost part of the
armed men that were in the camp.

JvDGis vii. 9-11.



The Song of the Well, - - - 218

And thence to Be'er ; this is the Be*er [or
Well] of which the Lord said unto Moses,
Gather the people together and I will give
them water. Then sang Israel this song :

Spring up, O well ! Sing ye back to her !

Well which princes digged.

Which nobles of the people delved.

With the sceptre and with their staves.

Numbers xxi. 16-18.

Sermon before Communion. I., - - 238

He restoreth my soul. Psalm xxiii. 3.

I am the Bread of Life. John vi. 35.


Sermon before Communion. II.,- - 254
He took bread. Luu zxii. 19.


The words of the Texts of the Sermons and of other
ciutions fi:om Scripture in this volume are taken from the
Revised Version of the English Bible (1885), with some
•iighi modi£catioiM.


The forgiveness of our sins according to the riches of His
grace. — Ephesians i. 7.

T WISH to seek with you some of the answers,
to be found in the Scriptures and our own
experience, to the question: In what does the
forgiveness of sins consist? There is another
question inseparable from this, and of equal
importance with it: How is the forgiveness of
sins assured to us? To which the answer is:
Through the perfect sacrifice offered once for all
in the life and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of
God. We shall carry this answer with us, and
before we are done we shall consider what it does
to enhance the meaning and obligations of forgive-
ness. But our main purpose is to ask what that
meaning is. We do not aim at a historical survey



or systematic statement of Bible doctrine on the
subjeC^.;.,tt is^itie practical answers we seek
— r,(}Q ?70t;pret^d they .are exhaustive — from the
Bible as' wfeir'as' ^robi'biir' own experience to one
of the most urgent questions which that experience
presses upon us: In what docs the forgiveness of
sins consist?

The strongest proofs of the need of forgiveness,
or, in other words, of the reality of the sense of
sin, have been found by some observers in the
universality of that sense, or at least in the fact,
which the dramatists of all ages have treated as
the most certain and tragic element in human
experience — the persistence and ineradicableness
of a sense of guilt: the hopelessness of out-
running conscience, however successfully some
versatile men may have appeared to do so, upon
their passions, or upon a strong ambition, or upon
the cleaner carriage of an intellectual pursuit, or a
busy service of their fellows. Neither the most
powerful nor the most pure absorptions, of which
the heart is capable, are of themselves sufficient to
redeem a man from the conscience of a selfish, a


cruel, or a cowardly deed. I need not linger to
remind you of how fully the Bible illustrates and
enforces these conclusions of our experience.

But more convincing than this inevitableness
of 4:onscicnce by all men, however hardy and reck-
less, is the fact that the sense of sin appears most
keen and painful in the purest and the truest
hearts: that it is the most holy of our race, who
have most acutely felt their guilt and need of
forgiveness. Which of us can remain unashamed
in presence of the shame of the Saints? With
that shame also the Bible is red. The verses
which bum with it, the Psalms, which are blotted
with its tears or broken by its sobs, are to-day
and for ever will be, the confessional of humanity.
Do not think that it is where the criminal or the
murderer breaks down in confession that we will
most keenly find our conscience. It is the saints
upon their knees who draw us beside them;
where Isaiah feels his lips unclean before the
Throne; where Peter falls at the feet of Christ;
where Paul cries crushed and broken frcwn the
captivity that is upon him ; where John looks us in
the face and says : If any man say that he has no sin
he deceiveth himself and the truth is not in him.


But indeed we do not require to go beyond
our own experience. Abstract and pale are the
evidences of sin in other men besides those with
which each of us can furnish himself. If you and
I are awake to-day and if we are dealing honestly
with ourselves there is not one of us who cannot
find in his own memory and by his own conscience
infinitely more painful proofs of the need of for-
* giveness than the most reckless or the most holy
lives of others can possibly present to him. //
any mem say that he have no sin he deceiveth
himself and the truth is not in him.

I know that I am speaking to many who are at
a stage of life when all this can hardly have the
same force as it will when you are older. In our
youth religion attracts us more by the ideals and
aspirations with which she inspires our strength,
than by the remedies and reliefs which she offers
to our weakness. But as the years go on it is the
sense of the need of forgiveness of which we
become most aware. It is an older man who says :
Remember not the sins of my youth, O Lord, nor
my transgressions: but according to thy loving
kindness remember thou me. We have missed
opportunities, we have neglected duties. What-


ever good use we have made of some of the
relations of life, there are others which we have
wasted, or to which through selfishness we have
been utterly blind. We have not been fully loyal
to the hearts that loved and trusted us. We have
gone astray in face of manifest warnings from on
high. We have sinned against the light and love
of God our Father. The years do not lessen nor
wear thin this sense of guilt. Rather they bring
out all the colour that is in it: red and awful to
our eyes. Every additional one teaches us that it
is the most inseparable element of human experi-
ence, perhaps to be thrown off by nimble youth,
but certain to make up on later years. Guilt, a
bad conscience, remorse — it is not our theologians
but our poets and depictors of human life who have
vied with each other in showing how these stick to
a man, and how though he carry nothing else out
of life with him he carries this. The sting of death
is sin, "It is like a piece of bad workmanship,"
one of our greater English novelists makes one of
her characters, a carpenter, say: "It*s like a piece
of bad workmanship, you never, never see the end
of it."

Yet the Prophets made it one of their principal


proclamations that God forgave the sins and
removed the guilt of the penitent; and Christ
went further and announced that the removal of
the guilt of men was His work and the meaning
of His Life and Death. To earth He came
expressly for this; and the confidence with which
He promised forgiveness, and with which He
bestowed it was not due to His feeling the sense
of sin less than its victims do. Christ, the Sinless,
felt Sin far more than we, whose hearts condemn
us. He brought an unspeakable burden of truth
from Heaven; but the burden He found on earth
was heavier and it broke His heart. In the
misery sin causes, in its damage to our whole
nature, in the misunderstanding of God and the
estrangement from God which it breeds. He bore
our sins more fully than the worst of us or the best
of us ever felt them. Yet He proclaimed their
forgiveness through Himself. And by Him
thousands, nay millions, who had felt the sense of
guilt as the most real element of their experience,
have come, through Him I say, to be as sure
of the greater reality of their pardon and their
freedom. They may not have understood all that
He did for them — for who can? — but for our pur-


pose it is enough that they knew they were for-
given, and forgiven for His sake.


In what then does forgiveness consist? Take,
to start with, a most common reading of forgive-
ness — that it is the recalling of the just punishment
of our sins, the abolition by Almighty God of
their consequences. Is that true? Is it half the
truth ? Is it not an answer in which there lies, to
say the least, a deal of vagueness and moral con-
fusion? Barabbas might be content with it. It
does not express the experience of the saints of the
Bible, it is not true to our own highest convictions.
In the worst and most servile natures the sense of
sin means above all a dread of punishment in its
most material form whether here or hereafter; and
by such natures forgiveness will therefore be sought
and expected as the remission of the material
consequences of a man's misdeeds. But penitence
of this kind is surely little more than the sorrow of
the world which worketh death. In the best and
most healthy characters the sense of sin means
something very different: not that I am going to
be punished and must bear the physical or social


consequences of what I have done; but that I did
what I ought not to have done; that I was selfish,
cowardly, unready, untrue, and cruel; that I failed
at the test and that the failure was my own fault;
that it has set me at a distance from God; that it
has cost me in my character the loss of liberty and
spontaneousness ; that it has produced in me a
cowardly mistrust of myself in all moral effort;
that it has given me a slavish fear of God in place
of the natural love and trust which His children
enjoy. A man who has such a conscience of his
sins will not, in seeking forgiveness, be chiefly con-
cerned about their physical or social consequences.
The fear of punishment will be absorbed in, or at
least be subordinate to, the nobler anxiety as to
how the ethical and religious disturbance produced
in his nature by sin may be removed. For him
forgiveness will mean reconciliation with God His
Father; the dissipation of the evil conscience
which rises in him at the presence of God; and
the overcoming of that horrible distrust of himself
before temptation and before duty which paralyses
his will and renders him an easy prey to the powers
of evil. At the same time, looking to God as he
docs, as God Almighty, of infinite grace and with


command of nature and of history as well as of the
spiritual life of man, he will not cease to pray for
the reduction of even the material consequences of
his guilt. But he will not count the latter as the
essence or even as the necessary result of his for-
giveness. If he does he will be entertaining a
conception of forgiveness which will only lead him
away from, and blind his heart to, those moral
results, by which alone God's pardon of us could
be justified or were worth the taking by our-

These truths, which are obvious to the higher
instincts of our own nature, are plainly set
before us in the Bible. Not without struggle and
much passion; for it costs God's people, even under
the special guidance of His Spirit which they
enjoyed, no little argument, and even scepticism to
reach them. The Revelation, of which the Bible is
the record, encountered man upon every moral
level upon which it has been given to the human
heart to suffer and aspire. And therefore the
account which the Old Testament contains of how
men looked for and sought the Divine Pardon is
very various. Yet it is one which steadily grows
with Israel's increasing experience of God's


manifestation of Himself and of His Pro-
vidence in nature and history; throwing off
by degrees every element of servile error and
fear, till at last it becomes a noble and disin-
terested peace, in which a man learns to accept
the spiritual elements of forgiveness for their
own sake — the assurance of God's restored trust in
him, the restoration of His communion, and the
welcome burden of His will — and reckons as
subordinate and incidental to these, such reliefs,
as He may be pleased to send, of the outward
afflictions which the sins have wrought.

At first — it was a necessary stage in their Divine
education — the Hebrews appear to have had a very
simple idea of the relations of sin, suffering, and
forgiveness. In their language the Lord brought
down upon a man's head his own wickedness ^ ;
visited him with physical and other evils, and
when He forgave him these were removed.
The nation as a whole sinned, and in consequence
suffered drought and famine, and when these did
not avail to produce penitence in them, oppression,
slaughter, and even exile at the hands of heathen
powers regarded as the instruments of God's

»Ju. ix. 5, 7.


righteous anger against them. And His forgive-
ness was assured to their penitence when He
dehvered them from their enemies and restored
to them their poHtical freedom and the
opportunity of worshipping Him in their own
land. In all this there was a profound
truth: the conviction, namely, that as God
is One, so His world is one; that morality
to use a modern phrase is "of the natural order of
things"; and that the Divine Providence sways
nature and history for the high ends of righteous-
ness and grace.

Yet, as we can easily see, the effect of such
simple views upon such an experience, was to create
and foster the belief that physical and political
disaster, whether it fell on the nation or on the
individual, always implied the sinfulness of its
victims, and that conversely prosperity always
proved their righteousness. How strong and per-
vasive a dogma this became in Israel may be
perceived not only from the quantity of the Old
Testament prophecy directed against it, but from
the bitter struggle and deep passion which it cost
the prophets and psalmists to reach an opposite
conviction. Both the nation as a whole and certain


great souls in their private experience ^ found them-
selves in adverse circumstances which their con-
sciences refused to acknowledge as due to their
sins. Both beheld their cruel and unjust foes
flourishing in prosperity and refused to believe in
the righteousness of the fact. In these experiences
both encountered at first a great shock to faith in
God. And it was this shock and the scepticism it
induced, which gradually dissolved the dogma, that
suffering and sin, righteousness and prosperity were
identical; and when the dogma was dissolved room
came for a higher and more spiritual conception of
forgiveness than had formerly prevailed. The
chastised nation or individual, protesting their
innocence, and pressing with passion through the
mystery of suffering, which seemed to hide God
from them, and to place His decrees in contradiction
to their consciences, found Him at last not by
breaking beyond the suffering into health and
political freedom, but while accepting the suffering
itself; and found Him there more real, more near,
more full of grace and help, than they had ever
known in the brightest days of their prosperity.

>Such a Psalmist as the author of Psalm Ixxiii. ; Jeremiah
and the author of the Book of Job.


You can see how such experiences gave to . these
souls a new and a liberated idea of forgiveness.
They could no longer identify it with the removal
of physical or political sufferings, but in spite of
the continuance of these they were assured of it by
spiritual convictions, which they could cherish in all
independence of their physical or political fortunes.
Forgiveness meant a new relation to God: the
experience of His communion and of His insepar-
ableness from them; of His love, and His belief
and trust in them. Of course, God being what He
was, with power as omnipotent over their physical
and political fortunes as over the life of their spirit,
they did not give up hoping also for their relief
from pain and their visible vindication before the
eyes of the world. They prayed that He would
make perfect that which concerned them. And
even within this life He often did so. But so
far from imagining that forgiveness was coincident
with the removal of the sufferings which their sins
had brought upon them, they found that it gave
them new strength and willingness to bear these, so
long as it should please God to continue to afflict
them. They accepted their pain; the power to do
so was one of the results of forgiveness. Yet


after this life was over they looked for one which
should be full of blessedness and glory. Never-
theless, in spite of every suffering and every doubt
it breeds, / am with Thee: Thou hast holden my
right hand. Thou shalt guide me zvith Thy
counsel and afterward receive me to glory.

In the New Testament we find the full results
of this age-long struggle to light and peace. They
are so simple that to describe them requires few
words. Only we must first notice that our Lord
found it necessary again to contradict the dogma
(for it still lingered) that all suffering meant guilt.^
And again the inference was clear that the forgive-
ness of sins did not essentially consist in the
removal of suffering. Although, in the divine
power bestowed on Him, He sometimes healed
the sinner when He forgave him, the forgiveness
was granted before the healing. In His picture of
the penitent prodigal, although the latter is received
as a son as he was at the beginning and clothed with
the robe and the ring, yet himself had been satisfied,
were it his father's will, to be taken back only as a
hired servant. For his pure penitence rightly dis-
cerned that forgiveness was something essentially

* John ix. 3.


different from the full removal of the consequences
of his sin. It is not otherwise with the Apostles,
who in speaking of God's pardon emphasise the
ethical and religious results. Only, and still more
brightly and confidently than with the prophets,
the New Testament assures those who are forgiven
of their full blessedness and freedom in the glory
of their Father hereafter. They shall hunger no
more, neither thirst any more . . . and God shall
wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The sum of the matter then is that we cannot say,
God never remits to a forgiven man the conse-
quences of his sins. He is the God and Father of
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who in His
Name healed the paralytic at the same time that
He said: Son, thy sins he forgiven thee! He is
the omnipotent Creator who in His physical world
has provided such wonderful means of healing,
recuperation, and repair. But what we can affirm,
both from Scripture and experience, is that such a
remission does not always nor even generally occur
when forgiveness itself has become sure. To go
back for a moment to Scripture and to a most clear
example there, we read of David who by God's
grace found pardon, if ever man did, and who


nevertheless in his kingdom, in his family and in
his own person bore to the day of his death the
punishment of the great crime of which he so
nobly repented. And we all— -or at least those of
us who are past our youth — ^have known men and
women who have as nobly repented of their sins
as David, and who nevertheless in the unremitting
pains of a long life have had to pay the heavy
debts they incurred by the folly and recklessness
of their youth. Did not Israel of old, although
forgiven, receive of the Lord's hand double for all
her sins?

In all which there is at once a great consolation
and a terrible warning. A great consolation — for

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Online LibraryGeorge Adam SmithThe forgiveness of sins, and other sermons → online text (page 1 of 13)