John Owen on Offenses & Forgiveness Between Christians

I’ve been helped and challenged by the following encouragements from John Owen:

“Freedom from failings is a fruit of glory.  We see here darkly, as in a glass,–know but in part.  In many things we offend all; who knoweth how often?  Mutual failings to be borne with, offences to be pardoned, weakness to be supported, may mind us in these pence of talents forgiven us.  Let him that is without fault throw stones at others.

“Some men rejoice in others’ failings; they are malicious, and fail more in that sinful joy than their brethren in that which they rejoice at.  Some are angry at weaknesses and infirmities; they are proud and conceited, not considering that they themselves also are in the flesh.  Some delight to dwell always upon a frailty; they deserve to find no charity in the like kind.  For injuries, who almost can bear until seven times?  Peter thought it much.  Some more study revenge than pardon.  Some pretend to forgive, but yet every slight offence makes a continued alienation of the affections and separation of converse.  Some will carry a smooth face over a rough heart. Christ is in none of these ways.  They have no savour of the Gospel.  Meekness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness, hiding, covering, removing of offences, are the footsteps of Christ.

“Seest thou thy brother fail?  Pity him.  Doth he continue in it?  Earnestly pray for him, admonish him.  Cannot another sin but you must sin too?  If you be angry, vexed, rejoiced, alienated from, you are partner with him in evil, instead of helping him.  Suppose thy God should be angry every time thou givest cause, and strike every time thou provokest him.  When thy brother offendeth thee, do but stay thy heart until thou takest a faithful view of the patience and forbearance of God towards thee, and then consider his command to thee to go and do likewise.  Let, then, all tenderness of affection and bowels of compassion towards one another be put on amongst us, as becometh saints.  Let pity, not envy; mercy, not malice; patience, not passion; Christ, not flesh; grace, not nature; pardon, not spite or revenge—be our guides and companions in our conversations.”

John Owen

Mutual Duties in Church-Fellowship (Explication VII), 71—72.


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