Matthew 6:12

It is to be pointed out that the Gospel version of the Lord's Prayer uses here in this petition the words "debts" and "debtors;" while, in what may be regarded as a parallel passage (Luke 11:4), the prayer reads, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive our debtors" It might, possibly, and not altogether unplausibly, be held that this last form of the words designs to avoid bringing into near comparison the dread reality we call sin against God, with our sins (though still justly so called) against one another. At any rate, the version may suggest profitably the thought. Vast also and indeed immeasurable the difference between what we owe to God and what any one can owe to us; still these facts more naturally both fall under the description of "debts." Again, though the words "debts" and "debtors" are virtually commented upon by the "trespasses" of ver. 14, it is not impossible that they suggest the sequence of this petition upon the one preceding it. We have just prayed, "Give us this day," etc. What debts, indeed, God's daily innumerable givings, as Creator to all creation, as Father to all his family, entail upon them! These are not less to be thought of because they partake so much of a moral character, and are so analogous to those which children owe to their earthly parents. Though parents must give for the sake of the life of those to whom they give, their claim upon the gratitude, obedience, devotion, of their offspring is indefeasible, and the high, solemn sanctions of that claim in Scripture are second to none. Dwell on the consideration of -


1. It is a convincing proof of a moral element present in the world's social structure.

2. It is a convincing proof that that moral element is not of the nature of a level, stern, logical justice by itself, without elasticity, without any possible method of compensation, without any provision of remedy, in the event of incursions of error, accident, fault.

3. The outward practice of forgiveness (leaving out of question any cultivating of the spirit of forgiving)is found an absolute necessity for carrying on the community of social life.

4. The three foregoing particulars may be viewed as a strong supporting argument of the species of analogy, justifying the article of the apostolic Creed, that says, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." And they may be viewed so yet the more in the light of the second clause of the petition now before us, "as we forgive our debtors."


1. For debts in the matter of mercies innumerable and priceless, of which so little account has been made, and for which so little fruitful return has been shown.

2. For our debts in the matter of innumerable faults - faults of omission and of carelessness.

3. For our debts in the solemn matter of what can be described as nothing less than sin against God; and which we must know to be such by reason, by conscience, by education, by the education further of his revealed Word, and by the most explicit and most tender revelation of his love in Christ Jesus.

4. For all the debts of all that vast family of which we are a part, and for which our "prayers and intercessions" are permitted and invited.

III. THE EXCEEDINGLY SOLEMN FORM UNDER WHICH WE ARE TAUGHT TO ENTREAT GOD'S FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS, VIZ. "AFTER THE MANNER" OF OUR OWN FORGIVENESS OF OUR BROTHER. The thrilling suggestions of warning that lie plain to every gaze in these words of prayer fitted to our lips by Jesus, emphasized in vers. 14, 15, and so often repeated by us, are only equalled by the matchless condescension of them. - B.

Forgive us our debts.
There is a twofold debt which man oweth to God.

I. A debt of DUTY, worship, and obedience;


(Thomas Manton, D. D.)

1. By this prayer we are reminded of our constant liability to sin.

2. We are led to separate between the fact and theory of forgiveness.

3. We are led to regard forgiveness as a favour, and not as a claim.

4. We are reminded of the only condition upon which forgiveness can be extended to us.

5. We are taught to comply with the condition which is required.

(F. Edwards, B. A.)

I. We must here take notice that we are obliged to go to our devotions WITH CHARITY AND GOOD-WILL TOWARDS OTHERS.(1) To depose all enmity before we bring our oblation to the altar of God.(2) Reserving no spite or grudge toward any man, but having a heart(3) clear of ill-will;(4) being in affection of mind towards others, as we do wish, hope, and pray that God would be toward us.

II. It is implied on God's part, that He VOUCHSAFES PARDON ONLY UPON THESE TERMS; yea, more, that He doth truly promise pardon upon our performing this condition.(1) It also implies a consent on our part, and(2) submission to this condition, as most equal and reasonable.(3) If we break it, if we retain any uncharitable inclinations, we deal falsely with God; we forfeit all pretence to mercy and favour from Him; we are neither qualified for mercy, nor shall obtain it from God.

(Isaac Barrow, D. D.)

I. Observe how it BEGINS — "and forgive," etc. It follows prayer for daily bread. Life without forgiveness would not be worth having.

II. It is a prayer for the forgiving of our sins As THE CHILDREN OF GOD.

III. Sin is described as a DEBT.

IV. This is a prayer for GRACE.

V. In this prayer for forgiveness we MUST FALL IN WITH THE DIVINE PLAN for its bestowment.

VI. The DECLARATION connected with the prayer.

(Dr. Stanford.)

I. Sin considered as a DEBT to God.

1. A debt is what we owe.

2. We have failed to discharge it.

3. Let us glance at some items in the account.

(1)Wrong to the property of our neighbour;

(2)To his reputation;

(3)To his person.

4. Sins as debts

(1)are entered in God's books.

(2)They increase.

(3)Can never be discharged.

(4)They cannot be transferred to any fellow creature.

(5)They cannot be escaped by lapse of years or change of residence.

(6)Payment will be claimed.



1. Absolute.

2. Immediate.

3. Complete.


1. Conviction of guilt.

2. Contrition.

3. Confession.

4. Purpose of reformation.


1. Human forgiveness.

2. Human forgiveness a condition of the Divine.There can be no genuine prayer for pardon unless we cultivate a forgiving spirit: —

1. Pardon is always linked with repentance of sins, and these include an unforgiving spirit.

2. Faith in God's mercy is incompatible with unmercifulness in ourselves.

3. Gratitude to God for pardon received or expected prompts forgiveness of others.

4. This prayer includes those who wrong us.

5. It is the prayer of a child of God.

(Newman Hall, LL. B.)

1. He who has not received the spirit of forgiveness has not truly received the gift of pardon.

2. Without this loving spirit we cannot truly worship God.

3. He who does not for give forsakes the spirit of the gospel, and returns to the spirit of legalism.

4. He who does not forgive will soon lose the sense and enjoyment of God's pardon.

5. He who does not forgive lacks one of the great evidences and confirmations of faith.

(Dr. Saphir.)

What is mere bread to a man under sentence of death? — forgiveness necessary.

I. Man is God's debtor.

1. As regards his being.

2. His moral debtor.

3. Christ the real paymaster of His people.

II. The import of the petition.

1. It at once confronts us with the sin. forgiving God.

2. There is unselfishness in the petition — "us."

(Dr. O. Winslow.)

Forgiven, I am to forgive.

I. There exists a great necessity for the exercise of this godlike precept of forgiveness.

1. In the family circle.

2. God's forgiveness of us the rule and measure of our forgive. ness of others.

(1)God forgives immediately.

(2)God forgives fully.

(3)God forgives heartily.

(4)God forgets as well as forgives. "I will remember them no more for ever."

(Dr. O. Winslow.)

I. Consider MAN AS A SINNER in need of Divine forgiveness. How could guilt be remitted? Through death of Christ. How can a righteous lawgiver who insists upon a righteous equivalent be said to forgive? Forgiveness and payment of price often combined by sacred writers — "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins."


1. These words presuppose in us some failure of moral obligation.

2. That sin unremitred has an indelible place in the Divine remembrance. Debts are registered.

3. The need of an individual interest in the provided atonement for transgression.

III. The scriptural CONNECTION between the forgiveness we seek of God, and the forgiveness we may show to our fellow man.

1. The words suppose us to have sacred or relative rights which, as appertaining to our station, every other person is under obligation to acknowledge. This prayer implies that in the case of invaded rights we seek only such restitutions as are necessary to social security; not resentment.

2. The exact force of the connecting particle "AS" in this petition. The word has various meanings, ground or reason — this would attribute to man the meritorious initiative in obtaining his own pardon. Sometimes the word is used in the sense of similitude — God infinitely above man in the way and measure of His forgiveness. It is used both as an ordained condition and as a ground of hope. This connection between our mercy and what we expect is one of unalterable necessity.

IV. The MOTIVES which concur to enforce the duty.

1. What kindness is it to ourselves to forgive.

2. What a victory is it over our enemy to forgive.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

The debtfulness of sin should be remembered. It implies the wrongful possession of what belongs to another. Say that sin occupied a moment: that moment was God's. Sin has diminished the glory of God: therefore we owe God glory. "Trespass" implies the same thought; it is when you go on ground where you have no right to go. Forgiveness follows our request for daily bread, and is quite as necessary. Only they who show mercy can expect mercy. We must be careful to draw no parallel of degree between God's forgiveness and ours, though there is a resemblance in kind. What is the nature of the forgiveness you expect from God?

1. Absolute in character.

2. Immediate in time.

3. Universal in extent.

4. It is an easy thing to use a result, while we are totally unobservant of the great processes by which that result has been produced.If God had forgiven without this process He would not have manifested any great abhorrence of sin.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

1. A sense of burden.

2. A sense of fear.

3. A sense of perplexity.

4. A feeling of hatred.

(F. C. Blyth, M. A.)

1. Let us think whose children we are (Matthew 5:44, 45).

2. Whose disciples we are (1 Peter 2:23).

3. How often our Lord has forgiven us.

4. How small is the debt our fellow servants owe to us compared to the stun we owe to our Lord.

5. An unforgiving spirit towards others disqualifies us for forgiveness.

6. If we forgive our brethren their wrongs we turn those wrongs into blessings.

1. As a plea with God.

2. As an argument.

3. As an example.

(F. C. Blyth, M. A.)


1. An humble confession of sin.

2. True penitence.

3. Filial confidence in God.


1. This language as preceptive. It has the force of a precept.

2. It is solemnly admonitory. God will not forgive us unless we forgive.

3. It is promissory. I have forgiven, do Thou, Lord, forgive, as 'Thou hast promised.

4. It is abundantly consolatory.

(J. Morgan)

Amer. Hom. Rev.
I. How is SIN A DEBT?

1. It supposes obligation.

2. It supposes obligation undischarged.

3. It is an obligation that cannot be denied.

4. It is an obligation that cannot be ignored.

5. It is an obligation that cannot be transferred.

6. It is an obligation that cannot be run away from.


1. Not by repentance.

2. Not by good works.

3. Not by any amount of seeking and striving.

4. But solely by the grace of God forgiving the debt for the sake of Jesus Christ.

(Amer. Hom. Rev.)

A record is being kept unobserved by us. As a traveller calls for what he needs at his hotel and no demand is made at the time for payment, though every item is carefully recorded, so it is with our daily incurred debts against God. Sins record themselves. As a multitude entering some place of resort pass individually through the turnstile, and a record is unerringly made out of sight of the visitor, and as mechanical contrivances in factories register every beat of the piston and every fraction of the result produced, so, by the law of God impressed on our own nature, all our actions are registered, all our debts recorded.

(Newman Hall, LL. B.)

When thou forgivest, the man who has pierced thy heart stands to thee in the relation of the sea-worm that perforates the shell of the mussel, which straightway closes the wound with a pearl. Bishop Andrewes observes, "David compares his enemies, not to wasps, but to bees (Psalm 118:12), inasmuch as, if they have a sting, yet they have honey also, as ministering to his comfort before God."

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