From the September 1894 Christian Science Journal by Isabella Lamont
It is only “he that repenteth and forsaketh his sin that shall find mercy.” That does not mean forsaking it for a day or any period of time, and then resuming it again, but forsaking it finally.
Now, let us see what is meant by the term “forgiveness.” Webster says: “Forgiveness, the pardon of an offender by which he is considered and treated as not guilty. Forgive: To pardon; to remit as an offence or debt; to overlook an offence and treat the offender as not guilty. The original and proper phrase is to forgive the offence, to send it away, to reject it, that is, not to impute it to the offender. But by an easy transition we also use the phrase to forgive the person offending.”
Under the word pardon we find the definition, “remitting an offence or crime; absolving from punishment.”
When we come to reason about it, we wonder if it is possible to absolve from punishment. Webster says, “To punish is to afflict with pain, loss or calamity for a crime or fault, primarily to afflict with bodily pain.” Also, — “God punishes men for their sins with calamities, personal and material.”
If God (as Habakkuk says) is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, how can He be held responsible for the calamities which seem to follow such sins?
All the Scripture which we have been able to find throwing light upon this subject, goes to show that sin is its own punishment. If all the persistence, ingenuity and originality which have been expended in devising punishment for sin, had been directed in the right channel, what a transformation would have been wrought in our world! The whole gamut of torture from the Spanish Inquisition to the most refined persecution of to-day might have been swept from our world. Alas for all the misdirected effort and all the misapplied power!
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
I doubt not we have all uttered that prayer a thousand times without ever thinking that there was a condition in it. How do you forgive your debtors? If another has wronged you, do you say, yes, I forgive you, and then keep thinking of it, and having it recur again and again to your thought, and justify yourself by saying, yes, I forgave it, but I cannot forget it? As long as you think of it as an offence, it is not forgiven.
The Bible thus speaks of God’s method of forgiving sins. “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins, and their iniquities will I remember no more.
“For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.”
Then, to forgive a transgression, is to blot it out of your memory, or your consciousness; to destroy it; to make it cease to exist. Have you done that? If you have not, then according to the statement, “For if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” you need not suppose that you are forgiven. What does that statement mean? Does it mean that God’s attitude to you is to be determined by your attitude to your fellow men; that His conduct is to be regulated and guided by yours? If God is the same yesterday, to-day and forever, and He is always absolute Right, he is not thinking kindly of you to-day, and angry with you to-morrow.
“If ye forgive not men their trespasses” must mean, if you have not eliminated from your consciousness the sense of evil sufficiently to see that your brother’s real Being cannot commit an offence, and your real Being is not susceptible of receiving offence, then your conception of God is too limited and material to perceive that He is unchangeable Love and that “every good and every perfect gift” cometh from Him, but nothing that is evil or imperfect.
Your sense of entire forgiveness, or of absolution, will be attained only when your own consciousness is so purified, that evil of any sort will find no response, no lodgment or abiding place therein. When the “prince of this world shall come and find nothing” in you.
Watch your thoughts. One of our poets speaks thus wisely of the power of thought:
“I hold it true that thoughts are things
Endowed with bodies, breath and wings,
And that we send them forth to fill
The world with good results — or ill.
“That which we call our secret thought
Speeds to the earth’s remotest spot,
And leaves its blessings or its woes
Like tracks behind it as it goes.”
Being careful of your thoughts will lead you to be careful of your words. If you destroy the thought before it has been expressed in words, it will be more easily done.
The story of the Catholic woman who went to her priest and confessed having gossiped, illustrates this. He told her that he must inflict a penance to teach her the evil of it, so he gave her a ripe thistle which he told her to scatter by the wayside, and then report to him. She went away happy, thinking what an easy penance it was, but when she returned next day and told him that she had done it, he told her then to go and gather up all seeds that she had scattered, and the impossibility of that task showed her the irreparable wrong of retailing error.
Good will become more real to you as error becomes unreal. But you say, “That seems such a simple thing to do, that we cannot believe there is any power in that to rid us of evil.” Naaman thought that what was required of him was a very simple thing, and because of its simplicity he did not want to comply with the command of the prophet, and his servants understanding the pride which stood in the way, said, “My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, would’st thou not have done it? how much rather then when he saith to thee, Wash and be clean. Then he went and dipped himself seven times in Jordan (seven signifies completeness), according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
He wished to do some great thing, but found it hard to do a little thing; but the pride must give place to humility, to childlike obedience and trustfulness before that sense of uncleanness would leave his consciousness. It was the mental condition which the prophet sought to change, knowing that it would externalize speedily.
The way to understand the principle of Christian Science is to obey its requirements. Jesus said, “He that doeth the will shall understand the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.” You remember another instance where Jesus healed the sick of the palsy, and said: “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee,” and the scribes accused him of blasphemy, and he replied to their thoughts by saying, “Whether is it easier to say, thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk;” thus showing that sickness and sin are identical, and both must be destroyed.
The work of bringing about this sense of forgiveness, is yours, and must be done by overcoming evil, and demonstrating the power and presence of Good by word and action.