Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive

Scripture References

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.

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
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