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faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds, thy righteousness is like the great mountains, thy judgments are a great deep.' 'Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all ye stars of light.' •0 give thanks unto the God of heaven, for his mercy endureth for ever.'”
An attentive examination of the subject of divine mercy, as it is revealed in the sacred volume, will, it is confidently believed, fully shew that it niost gloriously expresses the divine character, and most completely meets the necessities of guilty man. No one can read the Scriptures seriously, without being struck with the fulness and variety of their testimony repecting divine mercy. It seems to be the very ink in which the pen of inspiration was dipped, and certainly the characters are beauteous and everlasting. In the divine record, God is said to be merciful, Psalm cxvi. 5; to be rich in mercy, Eph. ii. 4; to be ready to forgive, Psalm lxxxvi. 5; to multiply pardons, Isaiah lv. 8; to delight in mercy, Micah vii. 18; and beside these, a vast variety of other gracious expressions are used, which we should diligently search out, and seek to understand.
God is naturally merciful; mercy is essential to his character. Divine mercy is, God himself being merciful. All his glorious attributes unite to carry into effect the desires, and to fulfil the designs of mercy. When we say that God is naturally merciful, or that mercy is essential to his character, we mean that it is his nature to be merciful, that the cause of all his acts of mercy is found in himself, and in himself alone. But it must be borne in mind, that mercy is first
moved by the love, and then guided by the will and wisdom of God. God is holy from necessity of nature, and cannot be otherwise than holy in every act; but there is not the same necessity that he should be merciful in every act. “I will (he says) have mercy on whom I will have mercy;” and he is holy in so doing; but he is equally holy when “ the wicked are turned into hell.” As God's power creates only what he wills to create; so his mercy acts as his wisdom sees fit, and his will determines; yet both power and mercy are infinite in their nature, and both natural to God. "If (says Dr. Goodwin) God had been merciful to no sinner, yet he had been as merciful as he now is in his nature. So that our salvation must be resolved into some other principle than simply his being merciful, and, therefore, when we say that mercy is nature in God, the meaning of it is this, that it is suited to him, that it is that which he doth with the greatest delight (as men do actions of nature), wherein he hath no reluctancy. The meaning is not that this love works naturally and necessarily; for had he not set his heart to love, had not his will been set upon it, not any that sinned had ever had a drop of mercy from him, though he is rich in mercy.”
But what is the nature of this attribute of which so much is said, which is natural to God, and in the exercise of which he so much delights? We reply, that the nature of mercy will be best understood by considering its acts and triumphs, and by comparing it with sin and its consequences. The two greatest wonders in the world are the existence of sin, and the way in
which God overcomes it, so as to get everlasting glory to himself by the victory. This is done by the interposition and triumphs of mercy. Death is a short word, but how mighty its sway, how destructive its operations; sin is still shorter, but how dreadful its consequences, how horrible its nature; there is one word which swallows up both, so that as it respects the objects of divine favor, they shall cease to be. This wondrous word is mercy. Mercy annihilates sin, and slays death for all believers. Truly there is abundant reason for the oft-repeated chorus, “Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.”
Mercy, then, is a manifestation of the divine character, just suited to the miserable condition into which sin has reduced mankind. It is infinite, unbounded, unwearied love, moulded into the gentle forms of pity, long-suffering, forgiveness, kindness, and compassion. “Love (says the author last quoted) is a desire to com. municate good, the chiefest good, unto the creature ; but mercy is to pull the creature out of a depth of misery. Parents love their children simply as they are their children; but if they are fallen into misery, then love works in a way of pity : love is turned into mercy.” “Love (says the pious Watson) is like a friend who visits them that are well, mercy like a physician who visits them that are sick, both of them have sounding bowels, and healing under their wings.” Dr. Dick observes, “ Mercy has its source in the divine goodness, and may be considered as a particular modification of it. Goodness is the genus, mercy is the species.” “The Latin word
Miscricordia signifies (as Zanchius observes) having another's misery at heart, but not a miserable heart, or one made so by the misery of another, especially as applied to God, with whom it is no other than a propensity of his will to succour persons in distress, whether in a temporal or spiritual way; and this is as essential to him as is his goodness, of which it is a branch; and, therefore, as God is essentially, originally, independently, and underivatively good, so is he in like manner merciful."*
The mercy of God is commonly divided into two branches, general and special ; and this distinction is warranted by scripture, which testifies, “ The Lord is good to alī, and his tender mercies are over all his works,” Psalm cxlv. 9; “He makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust;" “ He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens which cry, yea, he preserveth man and beast," Psalm xxxvi. 6. The continuance of this world in existence day after day, is an amazing proof of the patience and long-suffering of God, and proves that he deals with all men in some sense in a way of mercy, and through a Mediator. When man sinned, every thing should have been forfeited ; darkness should have supplanted light, pain have banished pleasure, and death have triumphed over life, and every thing would have been forfeited, but for mercy. Mercy interposed between this accursed earth and incensed vengeance - engaged to find a sacrifice, infinitely more ample than an apostate world
* Gill's Body of Divinity.
undertook to bring forth a glorious Eden from the moral chaos; and the world is spared with all its accumulated and accumulating crimes for mercy's sake, and to furnish trophies to its praise. Looking at God's long-suffering towards the ungodly, and the mercies which day after day he heaps upon them, how should it raise our views of his character, encourage us to hope for special and spiritual mercies, stir us up to an imitation of his conduct in all long-suffering and forbearance, and stimulate us to praise him for his boundless, undeserved, and distinguishing favors. What these special mercies are, will be the object of the following pages to unfold. We may in general observe that they are vast, innumerable, and eternal; suited to the soul; adapted to our circumstances; and worthy of God. Would we feel our souls overwhelmed with their glory, would we have our minds attuned to join the melodious strains of David, Psalm ciii., then let us study divine condescension, dying love, precious promises, and almighty operations. God outspreads all these before us, and says, “ Acquaint thyself now with God, and be at peace with him, and thereby good shall come unto thee.”
There is another study in which it is necessary to make some proficiency, in order to be able rightly to understand and truly to enjoy this wondrous mercy. Standing on the mount of divine revelation, let us gaze into the dread abyss of our fallen nature. Never is this awful subject so clearly understood and so profitably applied, as when studied in the light of the divine perfections. “I have heard of thee by the