Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

"Forgive Our Sins" is a hymn about being ready to forgive others again and again-as Jesus said, seventy-times-seven times! We have many hymns about God's forgiveness of our sins, but this one adds a most helpful guide in forgiving others' sins.
Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

God’s children are not called to come before God’s throne with a list of accomplishments, or merits or goodness; they are called, says Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 26, to come with the humility that “…offers nothing but our need for mercy.” Such a cry for mercy comes from our “dying-away of the old self” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33, Question and Answer 88) which expresses that we are “genuinely sorry for our sin and more and more…hate and run away from it” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33, Question and Answer 89).

The gifts of renewal and pardon come only “through true faith” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7, Question and Answer 20) and are “gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merits” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7, Question and Answer 21). The very act of faith is to plead for his mercy.


God of compassion,
in Jesus Christ you did not disdain the company of sinners
but welcomed them with love.
Look upon us in mercy, we pray.
Our sins are more than we can bear;
our pasts enslave us; our misdeeds are beyond correcting.
Forgive the wrongs we cannot undo;
free us from a past we cannot change;
heal what we can no longer fix.
Grace our lives with your love and turn the tears of our past
into the joys of new life with you. Amen.
[John Paarlberg in Reformed Worship 34:8]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Almighty God,
because of Christ’s blood,
do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are,
any of the sins we do
or the evil that constantly clings to us.
Forgive us just as we are fully determined,
as evidence of your grace in us,
to forgive our neighbors.
By ourselves we are too weak
to hold our own even for a moment.
And our sworn enemies—
the devil, the world, and our own flesh—
never stop attacking us.
And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong
with the strength of your Holy Spirit,
so that we may not go down to defeat
in this spiritual struggle,
but may firmly resist our enemies
until we finally win the complete victory.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.
—based on Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A’s 126-127
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

A Prayer of Confession
Loving God, we find it so hard to forgive those who injure us. So hard. And yet you have forgiven us. Work your grace in us to soften our hard hearts so that, forgiven and forgiving, we may walk out into the sunshine of freedom, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Tune Information

E♭ Major


Musical Suggestion

Ordinarily, this hymn belongs in the Service of Confession and Forgiveness, and may be sung in its entirety by the congregation or by an unaccompanied choir. In The Hymn of October, 1992, I suggested a more full-length use: sing stanza 1 followed by spoken corporate prayers of confession; sing stanza 2 followed by spoken personal prayers of confession; follow stanza 3 with silent prayers; and append the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) to the singing of stanza 4. 
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 29)
— Bert Polman

Hymn Story/Background

Rosamond E. Herklots wrote these words in 1966 after digging out weeds in her garden and thinking how bitterness, hatred, and resentment are like poisonous weeds growing in the Christian garden of life. "Forgive Our Sins" is a hymn about being ready to forgive others again and again—as Jesus said, seventy-times-seven times! We have many hymns about God's forgiveness of our sins, but this one adds a most helpful guide in forgiving others' sins.
Herklots revised her own text into the second-person singular ("you") in 1967. That text was first published in 1969 in the British supplementary hymnal 100 Hymns for Today with the subhead “The Unforgiving Heart.” It quickly became her best-known hymn, included in most recent hymnals.
Thomas Turton composed ST. ETHELDREDA in 1860; it was published in James Turle's Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship (1863).
This simple but charming tune is in the style of the older English psalm tunes. Sing much of the hymn in harmony, possibly with some antiphonal stanzas, but sing stanza 7 in unison. The singing and its accompaniment should contribute to the sense of awe inherent in the text.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Trained as a teacher at Leeds University, Rosamond E. Herklots (b. Masuri, India, 1905; d. Bromley, Kent, England, 1987) taught school briefly but from 1930 to 1980 worked as a medical secretary for a London neurologist. She had written poetry since childhood, and after encouragement by members of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland and by Oxford University Press she wrote about a hundred hymns. Some were published initially in various British hymnals and supplements, and some were contest-winners sung on BBC- TV.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Educated at Catharine Hall, Cambridge, England, Thomas Turton (b. Hatfield, Yorkshire, England, 1780; d. Westminster, Middlesex, England, 1864) became a professor of mathematics at Cambridge in 1822 and five years later a professor of divinity at the same school. In 1830 he left Cambridge to become Dean of Peterborough. He also served as Dean of Westminster (1842-1845) and as Bishop of Ely from 1845 until his death. Turton wrote many polemical tracts and composed some church music.
— Bert Polman
Hymnary.org does not have a score for this hymn.