Herman Witsius (1636–1708) on the petition of the Lord”s prayer, “forgive us our trespasses”

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“We confess that we are chargeable not merely with one sin, but with many and highly aggravated sins (1 John 1:9, James 3:2). We confess also, that on account of our transgressions, God could justly cast us into the prison of hell, from where we would not be permitted to escape until we had paid the uttermost farthing (Matt. 28:34). We acknowledge the righteousness of all those judgments which God inflicts upon us, to manifest his wrath and his hatred of sin (Ps. 51:4, Rom. 3:19)…

We confess, in summary, that our salvation must not be sought in any merits or in any satisfaction of our own; but instead in the free remission of our debts – debts which we ourselves are equally unable to deny and to unable to clear (Rom. 4:6, 7)…

Attentive consideration and sincere confession of these truths are highly useful and necessary to produce in us that humility and that holy self-despair. For without humility and holy self-despair we can neither participate of the Divine favor, nor flee to Christ as our refuge, nor build a firm and solid hope on his grace…

Let this therefore be the prayer of the soul trembling before God at the sight of its offences: ‘Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you’ (Ps. 143:2).” [This is repeated in the New Testament: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ (Lk. 18:13).]

– Herman Witsius (1636–1708), Sacred Dissertations on the Apostles’ Creed, p. 395-396

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