GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE (2)*
Mercy is the nature of God, and it has been well said that grace flows from the fountain of mercy. It is absolute in Him, and it is manifested to men by way of pity for their miseries, and for their relief. All God’s attributes are infinite. The Psalmist contemplated the works of creation as full of God’s riches: ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches.’
To the Israelites God promised outward blessings, all of them drops of mercy. But while all His attributes are perfect, Paul speaks of Him as ‘rich in mercy’, as if mercy were a peculiar treasure. There is abundance of it, and James speaks of its quality as ‘tender mercy’. It is of the most sensitive and sympathizing kind. Many people will feel sorry for a friend’s calamity, but they do not lay it to heart as if it were their own, and it is soon forgotten. But so pitiful and so tender is the mercy of God, that Isaiah wrote with reference to the Israelites, ‘In all their affliction He was afflicted.’
How tender was the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ when He was on earth! He knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the grave, yet He wept in sympathy with the sorrowing sisters. His mind
did not exult in the joy that He was about to bring them, but in tender mercy He felt their present sorrow. He wept with those that wept.
How many millions of men daily breathe God’s air freely when -if His mercy had not been infinite – every breath might have given intense pain, every mouthful of food might have been nauseous, every smell might have been made revolting, for man by nature is God’s enemy and has no desire for His pardon. But God is merciful. Instead of sweeping man from the face of the earth for his wickedness, or turning all His blessings into such curses that the sinner’s life on earth would be one long period of continuous suffering. God mitigated man’s punishment and in His mercy promised a means of restoration to His favour. But man slights or refuses God’s way of salvation though the most wonderful proof of His mercy is His plan of redemption, whereby His enemies might be brought back to Him, and be restored to happiness.
God’s goodness comprehends all His attributes. When He revealed Himself to Moses, He said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before thee’, and when He enumerated the streams which flow from that fountain of goodness, they were mercy, grace, longsuffering, with goodness and truth in abundance. When He bestows pardon and favour on His rebellious foes, it proceeds from mercy. It was because ‘He delighteth in mercy’, that He bestowed His mercies on the Israelites, all through that great and terrible wilderness, though they so frequently rebelled against Him. He was the first mover in redemption, contriving the plan which the Lord Jesus carried out. It is a more wonderful display of wisdom and mercy than the work of creation.
When the heart is touched by Divine grace it cannot help being affected by the love of the Father and of the Son – the love which would sacrifice a well-beloved Son – and the love which prompted Him to give Himself – to save the sinners who lived in a state of rebellion against Him. Such a costly boon, such transcendent mercy, unsought by man, is often made the subject of controversy on account of its free bestowal without money and without price. Man does not desire to be saved in this way, for He does not believe in his utter moral ruin, and that his heart is ‘desperately wicked.’ Some men are willing to receive salvation as an act of mercy, but do not believe that those who refuse it deserve eternal punishment as an act of justice on God’s part. They think that some inherent virtue was left in them from Adam, and that the requirements of God’s law might be let down to suit their infirmities. They forget that if God’s attributes could be lowered in that way, He would be no longer God.
If that had been possible, God would not have parted with His
Son to live such a life on earth and to die such a death. In trying to establish their own righteousness men put a light estimate upon the Saviour’s undeserved stripes. They even put the atonement out of their creed, thus distilling infidel poison out of healing balm. The Christian knows that it was the simple mercy of God which provided a Saviour, and that he knows nothing of Him except through Christ. His cross reveals the depth of the Father’s mercy. God is no debtor to man, for ‘the wages of sin is death’, so that death is his due. It seems astonishing that men who deserve to be in hell, should calmly slight God’s mercy and refuse His work as if thy were only ambitious to destroy themselves. God’s providential care continues, but men do not acknowledge Him; they enjoy His mercies, but often employ them as weapons against God.
The Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful’. All who have been born again desire to imitate the ‘Father of mercies’. Whilst He exhibited mercies in the creation of man, mercy shines more brightly in the new creation of those that had rebelled against Him. His mercy is abundant in loving and redeeming them; but it extends further in working in them by His Spirit, so giving them some likeness to Himself. His mercy is free, as well as His choice of the objects on whom He shall bestow it. Christians cannot value the work of Christ too highly, but they ought to be careful not to hide the mercy of God the Father, for He first planned redemption, and ‘His mercy endureth for ever’.
K. W. H. Howard
* Continued from Vol. 11 p.155.