Forgiveness Adulterated or The South as Tiger Meat
By Ron Rumburg
There is still afoot, roaming about the South, the Northern Tiger with an insatiable appetite for destroying accuracy in history and correcting so-called Southern wrongs by demeaning and taunting the people with an unbiblical view of sin and forgiveness. There is an overbearing attempt to cower Southern Christian men into thinking they need to feel a special guilt and seek forgiveness at the Northern altars. We have been tiger meat too long.
Forgiveness is a glorious truth when understood in the Biblical context and experienced by grace. However, it may be a very divisive thing when its truth is perverted. We live in a time when Biblical ignorance has reached epidemic proportions. Anything anyone wants to say is truth passes as acceptable. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).
Forgiveness is not to be equated with an apology. Many Christians and criminals think apologizing is seeking forgiveness. How many political figures have been caught in crimes and after being found out they make a public apology. Why? Not because they are sorrowing over their sin and truly repenting, but because they got caught and think this is their way out. The public apology is the ploy to get by with their sin. Actually, as the term is used today, “apologizing” has little meaning because it is corrupt society’s unsatisfactory substitute for “forgiveness,” and it is a totally unscriptural concept.
Forgiveness is consistently conditioned upon repentance. Southern theologian John L. Dagg noted, “The blessing of forgiveness is bestowed on all who truly repent of their sins…. All forgiveness is bestowed through Jesus Christ.”Forgiveness means to cancel, remit or pardon as in the sense of canceling or forgiving a debt; and that on the basis of another being able to pay it and willingly paying it. Paul used the word in Ephesians 4:32—“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” If we are to understand what forgiveness is we must know what is meant by God’s forgiveness? When God forgives He declares one forgiven—“Know the LORD: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34). Hear the Lord—“I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isa. 43:25). Considering what the Bible says in these verses about sin not being remembered, someone might ask, “If God is all knowing (and He is) if He remembers our sins—then how can He be said to forget our sins?” “Forgetting” is not the same as “not remembering.” In reality God is all-knowing and thus does not forget, but He can choose to “not remember.” Forgetting is passive and is something that finite human beings do. “Not remembering” is active and is God’s promise to not remember our sins which are against Him on the basis of Christ’s redemption. Thus the future is free from any rehearsals of that which was forgiven. The sins under the blood of Christ are not brought up against the forgiven any more.
If someone asks you for forgiveness does that mean that one wants forgiveness or is it a ploy? For many it is a meaningless overture to regain control. An example: after the war against the South the Northern Presbyterian Church made proposals to bring the Southern Presbyterian Church back into their fold. At the 1870 General Assembly of the Southern Church, men were made to think they were bound to forgive the Northern Church that had abused the South for political reasons. The situation was portrayed by Dr. E. M. Green, “We had had no dealings with our Northern brethren, and they had just made the discovery that they loved us. They had been abusing us like pick-pockets, but the reunited Old and New School Church wanted to complete their glory by taking us in, and we heard to our dismay that Van Dyke, Backus and Dodge were on their way with the olive branch.”
Many of the speeches compromised the issues and showed leniency. “The adroit Yankees seemed (Dr. J. J. Bullock says) to have cowed all our men by the insinuated threat that if they did not come in smoothly the whole Christian world would say it was because we were in the sulks at being whipped in a secular war, which would leave our church more clearly on a political basis than we charged theirs with being.”
Some of the leading Southern men had been waiting to hear from Dr. R. L. Dabney. Dabney began, “Mr. Chairman, I feel as if I were talking to people across a river a mile wide. If you are pleased with such speeches as you have been listening to, it is useless for me to express my thoughts. I do not profess to be as good as some people; I hear brethren saying it is time toforgive. Mr. Chairman, I do not forgive. I do not try to forgive. What! forgive these people, who have invaded our country, burned our cities, destroyed our homes, slain our young men, and spread desolation and ruin over our land! No, I do not forgive them. But you say, ‘They have changed their feelings towards us, are kind.’ And why should they not be kind? Have we ever done anything to make them feel unkind to us? Have we ever harmed or wronged them? They are amiable and peaceful, are they? And is not the gorged tiger amiable and peaceful? When he has filled himself with the calf he has devoured, he lies down in a kind, good humor; but wait till he has digested his meal, and will he not be fierce again? Will he not be a tiger again? They have gorged themselves with everything they could take from us. They have gained everything they tried to get, they have conquered us, they have destroyed us. Why should they not be amiable and kind? Do you believe the same old tiger nature is not in them? Just wrest from them anything they have taken from us, and see.” Dabney thus continued for an hour. Dabney was not unforgiving but there was no real repentance for the evils done to the South.
Dabney later said this was a fight for life or death and this was certainly true for the Old School Presbyterians of the South. He realized that some would consider him less than forgiving. He declared, “I would not surrender this right if I could. I then argued that the deep, instinctive recoil of the best and holiest in our communion from the embrace of the misguided men, who had murdered our sons and our country, was not unreasonable, not unchristian revenge, not malice, but a lawful and necessary moral sentiment…. The moment the Northern Assembly claimed the right to impose Lincolnism on our consciences by their spiritual authority; they made Lincolnism a constituent part of their ecclesial system…. The abolition majority took the freest scope to assert and argue that State secession was the sin of rebellion, thus making it a constituent part of their ecclesiastical and spiritual system…. And a holy mob of Abolitionists would have dragged them right out of the church, and, for the greater glory of God, murdered their ‘dear Southern brethren’ in the streets.”
Dr. Van Dyke, one the northern representatives said, “They have stripped every leaf from the olive branch, and made a rod of it to beat us with.” Dr. B. M. Palmer warned, “[Y]ou men who have sacrificed principle will not walk the quarter deck. You have sacrificed true principles, and without those, your moral power and influence are gone.” Much later when the Southern Church, which knew not Dabney as well as her other faithful men, willingly chose to be tiger meat and was eventually devoured by Northern liberalism.
Genuine forgiveness and real repentance go hand in glove. Will you be tiger meat or will you stand true to Christ and His Word?