On Prayer by Tertullian
Chapter VII.--The Sixth Clause.
It was suitable that, after contemplating the liberality of God, we should likewise address His clemency. For what will aliments profit us, if we are really consigned to them, as it were a bull destined for a victim? The Lord knew Himself to be the only guiltless One, and so He teaches that we beg |to have our debts remitted us.| A petition for pardon is a full confession; because he who begs for pardon fully admits his guilt. Thus, too, penitence is demonstrated acceptable to God who desires it rather than the death of the sinner. Moreover, debt is, in the Scriptures, a figure of guilt; because it is equally due to the sentence of judgment, and is exacted by it: nor does it evade the justice of exaction, unless the exaction be remitted, just as the lord remitted to that slave in the parable his debt; for hither does the scope of the whole parable tend. For the fact withal, that the same servant, after liberated by his lord, does not equally spare his own debtor; and, being on that account impeached before his lord, is made over to the tormentor to pay the uttermost farthing -- that is, every guilt, however small: corresponds with our profession that |we also remit to our debtors;| indeed elsewhere, too, in conformity with this Form of Prayer, He saith, |Remit, and it shall be remitted you.| And when Peter had put the question whether remission were to be granted to a brother seven times, |Nay,| saith He, |seventy-seven times;| in order to remould the Law for the better; because in Genesis vengeance was assigned |seven times| in the case of Cain, but in that of Lamech |seventy-seven times.|