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and extent of the divine mercy, let us attend to some of its properties.
1. It is free and sovereign. Mercy, indeed, is essential to his nature, and inseparable from it; we cannot conceive of God but as being merciful ; yet, the exercise of his mercy is free and sovereign; it is regulated by his will and wisdom ; and bestowed in such a way as is consistent with his infinite justice and holiness, and a due regard to the authority of his law, and the honour of his government. Wherever it is bestowed, it is freely bestowed ; none can say they deserve mercy. Some ignorantly talk of “ making themselves worthy of the mercy of God, by their repentance and reformation;" but this is to turn mercy into debt, and to set up merit is to destroy mercy. It is plain that all sinners do not obtain mercy; mạny neglect it ; many live and die wholly careless about it, their hearts being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin ; if any therefore obtain mercy, it is from God who gives the desire, inspires the prayer, and leads the soul gladly to receive it through the hands of the Mediator. "God himself declares the sovereignty of his mercy, saying to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion : so then (St. Paul concludes) it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that she weth mercy.” Rom. ix. 15, 16. Indeed, that apostle was himself a marvellous instance of the freedom and sovereignty of divine mercy, which he frankly owns; for "I,” says he, before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy.” He calls himself “the Chief of Sinners, but he was one of those “ vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory," in which God was pleased to make known the riches of his glory,” that is, of his mercy : and this leads us to observe,
2. That it is rich, and exceedingly abundant. It is worthy of the infinite Being who bestows it. We
read in Scripture of great mercy,"_" abundant mercy, -“ tender mercy,”—and—“ manifold mercies. God is said to be-"rich in mercy, ,” splenteous in mercy,”-and “to keep mercy for thousands.”
There is a fulness of mercy in God that is inexhaustible ; riches of mercy that cannot be counted ; multitude of mercies which cannot be numbered. Who can number the objects of mercy? Who can recount the mercies that every one of them has received ? So that each of them may adopt the pious words of the Psalmist, “ Many, O Lord, my God are the wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us ward : they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee ; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” Ps. xl. 5. And if such be the amount of mercies received by one individual, what must be the total sum of those received by a whole world! This has been the anchor of hope to myriads, who must else have perished in despair. This encouraged Moses to plead in behalf of Israel, when their destruction was threatened (Numb. xiv. 17) " And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is long suffering and of great mercy, &c.Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people, according unto the greatness of thy mercy: and the Lord said, I have pardoned, according to thy word.” In like manner, encouragement is offered to the almost despairing penitent (Ps. cxxx. 7). “Let Israel hope in the Lord : for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.”
3. Let us add, that this mercy of God is effectual -effectual for the complete relief, and perfect salvation of those who obtain it. Mercy, in man, is often ineffectual : it is merely pity and compassion ; it looks, and sighs, and offers words of sympathy and condolence, or pours forth prayers to the Father of mercies, but the case is too aggravated, the
object is too far gone to admit of relief from human hands : but the mercy of God is accompanied with infinite power ; and there can be no perplexity so complicated, no danger so imminent, no distress so deep, in which his merciful hand cannot afford effeca tual relief. 6 Give us help from trouble, O God, for vain is the help of man:” “thy mercy is great above the heavens, and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds.” Ps. cviii. 4, 12.
4. The mercy of God is comprehensive—that is, it includes, or is connected with, every other desirable good. The soul that requests it may say, “O satisfy us early with thy mercy ; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." The blessing of pardoning mercy comes not alone! it is the first link in the golden chain of salvation ; connected with all the rest, and insuring to the happy possessor, grace and glory; for no good thing will be withholden from the objects of mercy. “He that spared not his own Son, the chief mercy, the channel of all other mere cies, “but freely gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things !". This shews the unspeakable value of mercy!
5. It is perpetual. It always resides in God ; in every age of the world he continues to display it ; and wherever it is once bestowed, it shall never be withdrawn. In a psalm of praise, much used in the Jewish church, this attribute of God is peculiarly celebrated, and the perpetuity of divine mercy is repeatedly declared. Twenty-six'times in that Psalm it is said, His mercy endureth for ever. Ps. cxxxvi. This was the chorus of a spiritual song, in which the various blessings of creation and Providence are recited, on account of all which it is said, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever!”
Indeed, it has been the same in all ages of the world. All men have needed it, and millions have obtained it. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and all the patriarchs and prophets ; the peni
tents to whom John the baptist preached; the apos. tles and disciples of our Lord ; and all believers from that day to this—all have sought, obtained, and praised God for his mercy. How richly was Mercy displayed in and by the Lord Jesus Christ! HIMself the chief Mercy ; Mercy was incarnate in him. It was Mercy that brought him down from the throne of glory, and induced him to dwell in a tabernacle of clay ; it was Mercy that led him to become a poor, despised man, and to endure the contradiction of sinners against himself; it was Mercy that nailed him to the cross, and laid him in the tomb; and he has risen to the throne of universal empire, with his heart as full as ever of mercy to sinful man. In the high office he sustains, as a Priest upon his throne, he forgets not the miseries of man : “ for we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities :" he who on earth, was tempted in all points as we now are, still retains a sympathetic heart; and is as ready to pity and relieve the poor sufferer as when, himself a traveller on earth, he went about doing good, exercising compassion, instructing the ignorant, healing the sick, and comforting the mourner. Having therefore such a high priest, “Let us come with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
And, blessed be God, this mercy once bestowed, shall never be withdrawn. “ The gift and callings of God are without repentance." Were the objects of mercy left to themselves, to the deceitfulness of sin, and to the wiles of the temper, they would soon forfeit every blessing, and wander irrecoverably from God: but he who had mercy " because he would have mercy," has engaged, by covenant, to "put his fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from him ; they shall therefore persevere in the good way of faith and holiness, " looking for the mercy
of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal
life;" then the final manifestations, fruits, and effects of his mercy shall appear, when a complete period shall be put to sin and sorrow, and his people shall enter into his glory, and sit down with him on his throne. Then, with an emphasis before unknown, the joyful song shall be shouted by myriads of voices, “ O praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever!”
And now, let us take care to improve, to practical purposes, this encouraging attribute of the divine Being. Does mercy belong to God? O let us take care to seek it in time! Do we not need it ? Are we not very justly stiled, “ Miserable Sinners ?” Only “ fools make a mock at sin.” All thinking and serious persons will readily admit that they are sinu273 ; and, as such, that they need mercy,
But are our hearts affected with this conviction ?-deeply affected ?-durably affected ? Some slight and sient thoughts of needing mercy, most men have at times, especially in the hour of affliction, and in the apprehension of death; but they soon pass off. No use is made of them. They do not lead to fervent prayer for mercy; and the general notions that some men have of mercy are sadly abused. They take encouragement to continue in sin, because they think that God is merciful, and they may obtain mercy whenever they please. But let such persons know, that this presumption is exceedingly displeasing to God. As he is infinitely merciful to penitent sinners, who are inclined to forsake their sins, so is he infinitely just to take vengeance on hard-hearted and impenitent transgressors, who presume upon his mercy. He hath said (Ps. lxviii. 21) “ God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses ;” and again he hath said (Ps. lix. 5) " He will not be merciful to any wicked transgressors." Again, he saith of him who cries, “I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination