F. A. Chick on Forgiveness
The Gospel Messenger–August 1884
I remember once when I had thought that a brother had not treated me right, I shortly afterwards heard him preach. I desired to hear him gladly and with hearty sympathy, as I had many times before and I could not. I was conscious of a feeling of resentment within me that would not let me receive the word at his hands. I was ashamed of myself and humbled. I was grieved at my hardness of heart and lack of the spirit of forgiveness. While he was yet preaching I tried to lift up my heart in prayer for us both—for myself that I might be made to feel right, and for him that he might preach with liberty and power, and I was shut up from prayer. I can never tell how I was ashamed and grieved. I thought, “Is it possible that I cannot forgive?” But yet, hard and stubborn as my heart then was, in less than six hours afterwards I was softened in feeling and felt at perfect peace with that brother, and as entirely one with him as I had ever done. And this feeling lasted, and the next four days were days of happiness beyond measure. And the feeling of oneness to that brother, and of perfect forgetfulness all the injury which I thought I had received, has never left me. The next week I heard him preach again with all the joy that I had ever done. So that I knew that forgiveness is not a grace beyond what we may feel in our daily experience, the grace of God being our helper. [This very thing happened to me and I shall never forget it. It is a blessing to learn to truly forgive!–DM]
I will speak of one more instance of the power of forgiveness in the heart. I had preached one Sunday somewhat upon the theme of forgiveness, and among other things had said that some would say when injured, “O, I can forgive the wrong, but then I can never have confidence again. I never want to see that one; let him go his way and I will go mine,” etc. I said, “this is not forgiveness at all. Suppose the Lord Jesus forgave us that way, what should we do? To forgive we must have come to love and desire the fellowship of that one as much as before the wrong was done.”
Some three mouths afterwards a sister who had been baptized by me six months previous referred to this sermon. She said, “I knew that you did not mean to refer to me because you did not know the circumstances which at once came to my mind, but the sermon was a heart searching one to me.” She then went on to tell me about having had a difficulty with a step-daughter a few years previous, when she had felt herself ill-treated, but that (as she supposed) she had forgiven her step-daughter, only, she had said, “I do not care for her to come here often, and when she does come I will see as little of her as possible.” “But,” she added, “I thought I had forgiven her, else I never could have come to the church when I did; but your sermon has shown me that I have never known what forgiveness means.”
She then went on to tell me about hours of anxiety and grief over her hard heart and unforgiving spirit, and of the bitter struggle which she had to write to this step daughter and make confession of her wrong feelings toward her, and of falling upon her knees in prayer one day, and for how long a time she did not know, agonizing there for God’s blessing to help her forgive really and truly. God heard her and answered her and took away all the bitterness so that she felt that she could take the step-daughter in her arms and love her without hindrance. She said, “I can never tell you the perfect peace that filled me when the conflict was ended and God gave me the victory over my hard heart.” And she said this step daughter had visited her since and the day passed that she did not even think of the old trouble.
This seemed to me a wonderful display of the grace of God, and I felt like praising God on her behalf. We have also a Bible example of forgiveness, in the case of Joseph toward his brethren.
Affectionately, your brother,
F. A. CHICK.