Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 18: "Go into the Highways and Hedges"
Based on Luke 14:1, 12-24
In the midst of the wickedness of the great
cities many can be found who are living up to
all the light they have and are longing
for a greater knowledge of God.
Pacific Press Publ. Assoc.
The Saviour was a guest at the feast of a Pharisee.
He accepted invitations from the rich as well as the
poor, and according to His custom He linked the scene
before Him with His lessons of truth. Among the Jews
the sacred feast was connected with all their seasons of
national and religious rejoicing. It was to them a type of
the blessings of eternal life. The great feast at which they
were to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while
the Gentiles stood without, and looked on with longing eyes,
was a theme on which they delighted to dwell. The lesson
of warning and instruction which Christ desired to give,
He now illustrated by the parable of a great supper. The
blessings of God, both for the present and for the future
life, the Jews thought to shut up to themselves. They
denied God's mercy to the Gentiles. By the parable Christ
showed that they were themselves at that very time rejecting
the invitation of mercy, the call to God's kingdom. [p. 220] He showed that the invitation which they had slighted was
to be sent to those whom they despised, those from whom
they had drawn away their garments as if they were lepers
to be shunned.
In choosing the guests for his feast, the Pharisee had
consulted his own selfish interest. Christ said to him,
"When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy
friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich
neighbors, lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense
be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor,
the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed;
for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed
at the resurrection of the just."
Christ was here repeating the instruction He had given
to Israel through Moses. At their sacred feasts the Lord
had directed that "the stranger, and the fatherless, and the
widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall
eat, and be satisfied." Deut. 14:29. These gatherings were
to be as object lessons to Israel. Being thus taught the
joy of true hospitality, the people were throughout the year
to care for the bereaved and the poor. And these feasts [p. 221] had a wider lesson. The spiritual blessings given to Israel
were not for themselves alone. God had given the bread
of life to them, that they might break it to the world.
This work they had not fulfilled. Christ's words were
a rebuke to their selfishness. To the Pharisees His words
were distasteful. Hoping to turn the conversation into
another channel, one of them, with a sanctimonious air,
exclaimed, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the
kingdom of God." This man spoke with great assurance, as if
he himself were certain of a place in the kingdom. His
attitude was similar to the attitude of those who rejoice
that they are saved by Christ, when they do not comply with
the conditions upon which salvation is promised. His
spirit was like that of Balaam when he prayed, "Let me
die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like
his." Num. 23:10. The Pharisee was not thinking of his
own fitness for heaven but of what he hoped to enjoy in
heaven. His remark was designed to turn away the minds
of the guests at the feast from the subject of their practical
duty. He thought to carry them past the present life to
the remote time of the resurrection of the just.
Christ read the heart of the pretender, and fastening
His eyes upon him He opened before the company the
character and value of their present privileges. He showed
them that they had a part to act at that very time, in
order to share in the blessedness of the future.
"A certain man," He said, "made a great supper, and
bade many." When the time of the feast arrived, the host
sent his servant to the expected guests with a second
message, "Come; for all things are now ready." But a
strange indifference was shown. "All with one consent
began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have
bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it; [p. 222] I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have
bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray
thee have me excused. And another said, I have married
a wife, and therefore I cannot come."
None of the excuses were founded on a real necessity.
The man who "must needs go and see" his piece of ground,
had already purchased it. His haste to go and see it was
due to the fact that his interest was absorbed in his
purchase. The oxen, too, had been bought. The proving of
them was only to satisfy the interest of the buyer. The
third excuse had no more semblance of reason. The fact
that the intended guest had married a wife need not have
prevented his presence at the feast. His wife also would
have been made welcome. But he had his own plans for
enjoyment, and these seemed to him more desirable than
the feast he had promised to attend. He had learned to
find pleasure in other society than that of the host. He
did not ask to be excused, made not even a pretense of
courtesy in his refusal. The "I cannot" was only a veil
for the truth—"I do not care to come."
All the excuses betray a preoccupied mind. To these
intended guests other interests had become all-absorbing.
The invitation they had pledged themselves to accept was
put aside, and the generous friend was insulted by their
By the great supper, Christ represents the blessings
offered through the gospel. The provision is nothing less
than Christ Himself. He is the bread that comes down
from heaven; and from Him the streams of salvation flow.
The Lord's messengers had proclaimed to the Jews the
advent of the Saviour; they had pointed to Christ as "the
Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
John 1:29. In the feast He had provided, God offered to [p. 223] them the greatest gift that Heaven can bestow—a gift
that is beyond computation. The love of God had
furnished the costly banquet, and had provided inexhaustible
resources. "If any man eat of this bread," Christ said,
"he shall live for ever." John 6:51.
But in order to accept the invitation to the gospel feast,
they must make their worldly interests subordinate to the
one purpose of receiving Christ and His righteousness.
God gave all for man, and He asks him to place His service
above every earthly and selfish consideration. He cannot
accept a divided heart. The heart that is absorbed in
earthly affections cannot be given up to God.
The lesson is for all time. We are to follow the Lamb
of God whithersoever He goeth. His guidance is to be
chosen, His companionship valued above the companionship
of earthly friends. Christ says, "He that loveth father or
mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he that
loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of
Me." Matt. 10:37.
Around the family board, when breaking their daily
bread, many in Christ's day repeated the words, "Blessed
is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." But
Christ showed how difficult it was to find guests for the
table provided at infinite cost. Those who listened to His
words knew that they had slighted the invitation of mercy.
To them worldly possessions, riches, and pleasures were [p. 224] all-absorbing. With one consent they had made excuse.
So it is now. The excuses urged for refusing the
invitation to the feast cover the whole ground of excuses
for refusing the gospel invitation. Men declare that they
cannot imperil their worldly prospects by giving attention
to the claims of the gospel. They count their temporal
interests as of more value than the things of eternity. The
very blessings they have received from God become a
barrier to separate their souls from their Creator and
Redeemer. They will not be interrupted in their worldly
pursuits, and they say to the messenger of mercy, "Go
thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season,
I will call for thee." Acts 24:25. Others urge the
difficulties that would arise in their social relations should
they obey the call of God. They say they cannot afford to
be out of harmony with their relatives and acquaintances.
Thus they prove themselves to be the very actors described
in the parable. The Master of the feast regards their
flimsy excuses as showing contempt for His invitation.
The man who said, "I have married a wife, and therefore
I cannot come," represents a large class. Many there
are who allow their wives or their husbands to prevent
them from heeding the call of God. The husband says,
"I cannot obey my convictions of duty while my wife is
opposed to it. Her influence would make it exceedingly
hard for me to do so." The wife hears the gracious call,
"Come; for all things are now ready," and she says, "'I
pray thee have me excused.' My husband refuses the
invitation of mercy. He says that his business stands in the
way. I must go with my husband, and therefore I cannot
come." The children's hearts are impressed. They desire
to come. But they love their father and mother, and since
these do not heed the gospel call, the children think that [p. 225] they cannot be expected to come. They too say, "Have me
All these refuse the Saviour's call because they fear
division in the family circle. They suppose that in refusing
to obey God they are insuring the peace and prosperity of
the home; but this is a delusion. Those who sow selfishness
will reap selfishness. In rejecting the love of Christ
they reject that which alone can impart purity and
steadfastness to human love. They will not only lose heaven,
but will fail of the true enjoyment of that for which heaven
In the parable, the giver of the feast learned how his
invitation had been treated, and "being angry, said to his
servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the
city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the
halt, and the blind."
The host turned from those who despised his bounty,
and invited a class who were not full, who were not in
possession of houses and lands. He invited those who were [p. 226] poor and hungry, and who would appreciate the bounties
provided. "The publicans and the harlots," Christ said,
"go into the kingdom of God before you." Matt. 21:31.
However wretched may be the specimens of humanity that
men spurn and turn aside from, they are not too low, too
wretched, for the notice and love of God. Christ longs to
have care-worn, weary, oppressed human beings come to
Him. He longs to give them the light and joy and peace
that are to be found nowhere else. The veriest sinners are
the objects of His deep, earnest pity and love. He sends
His Holy Spirit to yearn over them with tenderness, seeking
to draw them to Himself.
The servant who brought in the poor and the blind
reported to his master, "It is done as thou hast commanded,
and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servant,
Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to
come in, that my house may be filled." Here Christ pointed
to the work of the gospel outside the pale of Judaism, in
the highways and byways of the world.
In obedience to this command, Paul and Barnabas
declared to the Jews, "It was necessary that the word of
God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put
it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting
life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord
commanded us, saying, I have set Thee to be a light of the
Gentiles, that Thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends
of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were
glad, and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as
were ordained to eternal life believed." Acts 13:46-48.
The gospel message proclaimed by Christ's disciples was
the announcement of His first advent to the world. It bore
to men the good tidings of salvation through faith in Him.
It pointed forward to His second coming in glory to redeem [p. 227] His people, and it set before men the hope, through faith
and obedience, of sharing the inheritance of the saints in
light. This message is given to men today, and at this
time there is coupled with it the announcement of Christ's
second coming as at hand. The signs which He Himself
gave of His coming have been fulfilled, and by the teaching
of God's word we may know that the Lord is at the door.
John in the Revelation foretells the proclamation of the
gospel message just before Christ's second coming. He
beholds an angel flying "in the midst of heaven, having
the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the
earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and
people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory
to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come." Rev.
In the prophecy this warning of the judgment, with
its connected messages, is followed by the coming of the
Son of man in the clouds of heaven. The proclamation of
the judgment is an announcement of Christ's second coming
as at hand. And this proclamation is called the
everlasting gospel. Thus the preaching of Christ's second [p. 228] coming, the announcement of its nearness, is shown to be
an essential part of the gospel message.
The Bible declares that in the last days men will be
absorbed in worldly pursuits, in pleasure and money-getting.
They will be blind to eternal realities. Christ
says, "As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming
of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before
the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and
giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into
the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them
all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
So it is today. Men are rushing on in the chase for
gain and selfish indulgence as if there were no God, no
heaven, and no hereafter. In Noah's day the warning
of the flood was sent to startle men in their wickedness and
call them to repentance. So the message of Christ's soon
coming is designed to arouse men from their absorption
in worldly things. It is intended to awaken them to a
sense of eternal realities, that they may give heed to the
invitation to the Lord's table.
The gospel invitation is to be given to all the world—
"to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."
Rev. 14:6. The last message of warning and mercy is to
lighten the whole earth with its glory. It is to reach all
classes of men, rich and poor, high and low. "Go out into
the highways and hedges," Christ says, "and compel them
to come in, that My house may be filled."
The world is perishing for want of the gospel. There
is a famine for the word of God. There are few who
preach the word unmixed with human tradition. Though
men have the Bible in their hands, they do not receive the
blessing that God has placed in it for them. The Lord
calls upon His servants to carry His message to the people. [p. 229] The word of everlasting life must be given to those who
are perishing in their sins.
In the command to go into the highways and hedges,
Christ sets forth the work of all whom He calls to minister
in His name. The whole world is the field for Christ's
ministers. The whole human family is comprised in their
congregation. The Lord desires that His word of grace
shall be brought home to every soul.
To a great degree this must be accomplished by personal
labor. This was Christ's method. His work was largely
made up of personal interviews. He had a faithful regard
for the one-soul audience. Through that one soul the
message was often extended to thousands.
We are not to wait for souls to come to us; we must
seek them out where they are. When the word has been
preached in the pulpit, the work has but just begun. There
are multitudes who will never be reached by the gospel
unless it is carried to them.
The invitation to the feast was first given to the Jewish
people, the people who had been called to stand as teachers
and leaders among men, the people in whose hands were
the prophetic scrolls foretelling Christ's advent, and to
whom was committed the symbolic service foreshadowing
His mission. Had priests and people heeded the call, they
would have united with Christ's messengers in giving the
gospel invitation to the world. The truth was sent to them
that they might impart it. When they refused the call, it
was sent to the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind.
Publicans and sinners received the invitation. When the
gospel call is sent to the Gentiles, there is the same plan
of working. The message is first to be given "in the
highways"—to men who have an active part in the world's
work, to the teachers and leaders of the people. [p. 230]
Let the Lord's messengers bear this in mind. To the
shepherds of the flock, the teachers divinely appointed, it
should come as a word to be heeded. Those who belong
to the higher ranks of society are to be sought out with
tender affection and brotherly regard. Men in business life,
in high positions of trust, men with large inventive faculties
and scientific insight, men of genius, teachers of the gospel
whose minds have not been called to the special truths for
this time—these should be the first to hear the call. To
them the invitation must be given.
There is a work to be done for the wealthy. They need
to be awakened to their responsibility as those entrusted
with the gifts of heaven. They need to be reminded that
they must give an account to Him who shall judge the living
and the dead. The wealthy man needs your labor in the
love and fear of God. Too often he trusts in his riches,
and feels not his danger. The eyes of his mind need to
be attracted to things of enduring value. He needs to
recognize the authority of true goodness, which says, "Come
unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto
your souls; for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
Those who stand high in the world for their education,
wealth, or calling, are seldom addressed personally in
regard to the interests of the soul. Many Christian workers
hesitate to approach these classes. But this should not be.
If a man were drowning, we would not stand by and see
him perish because he was a lawyer, a merchant, or a
judge. If we saw persons rushing over a precipice, we
would not hesitate to urge them back, whatever might be
their position or calling. Neither should we hesitate to
warn men of the peril of the soul. [p. 231]
None should be neglected because of their apparent
devotion to worldly things. Many in high social positions
are heartsore, and sick of vanity. They are longing for
a peace which they have not. In the very highest ranks
of society are those who are hungering and thirsting for
salvation. Many would receive help if the Lord's workers
would approach them personally, with a kind manner, a
heart made tender by the love of Christ.
The success of the gospel message does not depend upon
learned speeches, eloquent testimonies, or deep arguments.
It depends upon the simplicity of the message and its
adaptation to the souls that are hungering for the bread of
life. "What shall I do to be saved?"—this is the want of
the soul. [p. 232]
Thousands can be reached in the most simple and
humble way. The most intellectual, those who are looked
upon as the world's most gifted men and women, are often
refreshed by the simple words of one who loves God, and
who can speak of that love as naturally as the worldling
speaks of the things that interest him most deeply.
Often the words well prepared and studied have but
little influence. But the true, honest expression of a son
or daughter of God, spoken in natural simplicity, has power
to unbolt the door to hearts that have long been closed
against Christ and His love.
Let the worker for Christ remember that he is not to
labor in his own strength. Let him lay hold of the throne
of God with faith in His power to save. Let him wrestle
with God in prayer, and then work with all the facilities
God has given him. The Holy Spirit is provided as his
efficiency. Ministering angels will be by his side to
If the leaders and teachers at Jerusalem had received
the truth Christ brought, what a missionary center their
city would have been! Backslidden Israel would have been
converted. A vast army would have been gathered for the
Lord. And how rapidly they could have carried the gospel
to all parts of the world. So now, if men of influence and
large capacity for usefulness could be won for Christ, then
through them what a work could be accomplished in lifting
up the fallen, gathering in the outcasts, and spreading far
and wide the tidings of salvation. Rapidly the invitation
might be given, and the guests be gathered for the Lord's
But we are not to think only of great and gifted men,
to the neglect of the poorer classes. Christ instructs His
messengers to go also to those in the byways and hedges,
to the poor and lowly of the earth. In the courts and
lanes of the great cities, in the lonely byways of the country, [p. 233] are families and individuals—perhaps strangers in a
strange land—who are without church relations, and who,
in their loneliness, come to feel that God has forgotten
them. They do not understand what they must do to be
saved. Many are sunken in sin. Many are in distress.
They are pressed with suffering, want, unbelief, despondency.
Disease of every type afflicts them, both in body and
in soul. They long to find a solace for their troubles, and
Satan tempts them to seek it in lusts and pleasures that
lead to ruin and death. He is offering them the apples of
Sodom, that will turn to ashes upon their lips. They are
spending their money for that which is not bread and their
labor for that which satisfieth not.
In these suffering ones we are to see those whom Christ
came to save. His invitation to them is "Ho, every one
that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no
money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and
milk without money and without price. . . . Hearken
diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and
let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear,
and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live." Isa.
God has given a special command that we should regard
the stranger, the outcast, and the poor souls who are weak
in moral power. Many who appear wholly indifferent to
religious things are in heart longing for rest and peace.
Although they may have sunken to the very depths of sin,
there is a possibility of saving them.
Christ's servants are to follow His example. As He
went from place to place, He comforted the suffering and
healed the sick. Then He placed before them the great
truths in regard to His kingdom. This is the work of
His followers. As you relieve the sufferings of the body,
you will find ways for ministering to the wants of the soul.
You can point to the uplifted Saviour, and tell of the love [p. 234] of the great Physician, who alone has power to restore.
Tell the poor desponding ones who have gone astray
that they need not despair. Though they have erred, and
have not been building a right character, God has joy to
restore them, even the joy of His salvation. He delights
to take apparently hopeless material, those through whom
Satan has worked, and make them the subjects of His grace.
He rejoices to deliver them from the wrath which is to fall
upon the disobedient. Tell them there is healing, cleansing
for every soul. There is a place for them at the Lord's
table. He is waiting to bid them welcome.
Those who go into the byways and hedges will find
others of a widely different character, who need their
ministry. There are those who are living up to all the
light they have, and are serving God the best they know
how. But they realize that there is a great work to be
done for themselves and for those about them. They are
longing for an increased knowledge of God, but they have
only begun to see the glimmering of greater light. They
are praying with tears that God will send them the blessing
which by faith they discern afar off. In the midst of the
wickedness of the great cities many of these souls are to be
found. Many of them are in very humble circumstances,
and because of this they are unnoticed by the world. There
are many of whom ministers and churches know nothing.
But in lowly, miserable places they are the Lord's witnesses.
They may have had little light and few opportunities for
Christian training, but in the midst of nakedness, hunger,
and cold they are seeking to minister to others. Let the
stewards of the manifold grace of God seek out these souls,
visit their homes, and through the power of the Holy Spirit
minister to their needs. Study the Bible with them and
pray with them with that simplicity which the Holy Spirit
inspires. Christ will give His servants a message that will be [p. 235] as the bread of heaven to the soul. The precious blessing
will be carried from heart to heart, from family to family.
The command given in the parable, to "compel them
to come in," has often been misinterpreted. It has been
regarded as teaching that we should force men to receive
the gospel. But it denotes rather the urgency of the
invitation, and the effectiveness of the inducements
presented. The gospel never employs force in bringing men
to Christ. Its message is "Ho, every one that thirsteth,
come ye to the waters." Isa. 55:I. "The Spirit and the
bride say, Come. . . . And whosoever will, let him take
the water of life freely." Rev. 22:17. The power of God's
love and grace constrains us to come.
The Saviour says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and
knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I
will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with
Me." Rev. 3:20. He is not repulsed by scorn or turned
aside by threatening, but continually seeks the lost ones,
saying, "How shall I give thee up?" Hosea II:8.
Although His love is driven back by the stubborn heart, He
returns to plead with greater force, "Behold, I stand at the
door, and knock." The winning power of His love
compels souls to come in. And to Christ they say, "Thy
gentleness hath made me great." Ps. 18:35.
Christ will impart to His messengers the same yearning
love that He Himself has in seeking for the lost. We are
not merely to say, "Come." There are those who hear
the call, but their ears are too dull to take in its meaning.
Their eyes are too blind to see anything good in store for
them. Many realize their great degradation. They say, I
am not fit to be helped; leave me alone. But the workers
must not desist. In tender, pitying love, lay hold of the
discouraged and helpless ones. Give them your courage,
your hope, your strength. By kindness compel them to [p. 236] come. "Of some have compassion, making a difference;
and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire."
Jude 22, 23.
If the servants of God will walk with Him in faith, He
will give power to their message. They will be enabled so
to present His love and the danger of rejecting the grace of
God that men will be constrained to accept the gospel.
Christ will perform wonderful miracles if men will but do
their God-given part. In human hearts today as great a
transformation may be wrought as has ever been wrought
in generations past. John Bunyan was redeemed from
profanity and reveling, John Newton from slave dealing,
to proclaim an uplifted Saviour. A Bunyan and a Newton
may be redeemed from among men today. Through
human agents who co-operate with the divine, many a poor
outcast will be reclaimed, and in his turn will seek to restore
the image of God in man. There are those who have had very
meager opportunities, who have walked in ways of error
because they knew no better way, to whom beams of light will
come. As the word of Christ came to Zacchaeus, "Today I
must abide at thy house" (Luke 19:5), so the word will come
to them; and those who were supposed to be hardened sinners
will be found to have hearts as tender as a child's
because Christ has deigned to notice them. Many will come
from the grossest error and sin, and will take the place of
others who have had opportunities and privileges but have
not prized them. They will be accounted the chosen of God,
elect, precious; and when Christ shall come into His kingdom,
they will stand next His throne.
But "see that ye refuse not Him that speaketh." Heb.
12:25. Jesus said, "None of those men which were bidden
shall taste of My supper." They had rejected the invitation,
and none of them were to be invited again. In rejecting
Christ, the Jews were hardening their hearts, and
giving themselves into the power of Satan so that it [p. 237] would be impossible for them to accept His grace. So it
is now. If the love of God is not appreciated and does
not become an abiding principle to soften and subdue the
soul, we are utterly lost. The Lord can give no greater
manifestation of His love than He has given. If the love
of Jesus does not subdue the heart, there are no means by
which we can be reached.
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Every time you refuse to listen to the message of mercy,
you strengthen yourself in unbelief. Every time you fail to
open the door of your heart to Christ, you become more and
more unwilling to listen to the voice of Him that speaketh.
You diminish your chance of responding to the last appeal
of mercy. Let it not be written of you, as of ancient Israel,
"Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone." Hosea 4:17.
Let not Christ weep over you as He wept over Jerusalem,
saying, "How often would I have gathered thy children
together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings,
and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you
desolate." Luke 13:34, 35.
We are living in a time when the last message of mercy,
the last invitation, is sounding to the children of men. The
command, "Go out into the highways and hedges," is
reaching its final fulfillment. To every soul Christ's invitation
will be given. The messengers are saying, "Come; for
all things are now ready." Heavenly angels are still working
in co-operation with human agencies. The Holy Spirit
is presenting every inducement to constrain you to come.
Christ is watching for some sign that will betoken the
removing of the bolts and the opening of the door of your
heart for His entrance. Angels are waiting to bear the
tidings to heaven that another lost sinner has been found.
The hosts of heaven are waiting, ready to strike their harps
and to sing a song of rejoicing that another soul has
accepted the invitation to the gospel feast.
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"The Measure of Forgiveness"