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said, “ power over thyself, and over the aggravations of this people, and pardon their iniquity, according to the greatness of thy mercy.” Christ is “ able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him ;" those who seem to have reached the uttermost of guilt and of wretchedness. His justice is on the side of his mercy. He is “just, and the justifier of the ungodly.” He is just in bestowing the richest rewards on his most faithful servants. There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me in that day.” These were the words of a champion for the doctrines of
grace. His truth is on the side of mercy; and it is seen in his fulfilling all his promises; for God, who “delighteth in mercy,” is a God that “ cannot lie," and who, to give assurance to his people, has bound himself by “an oath!” O the unbelief of man, which required this “ strong consolation !” His sovereignty is engaged in the exercise of this mercy. It fixes on its objects; for it is said, “ I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." His immutability is seen in carrying on the designs of his mercy. God cannot change; and if Time should complain that all his revolving seasons, numerous as they have been, or may yet be, are far too limited to do justice to the triumphs of the Divine mercy, there is another perfection in the background (you may know her by her fixed eye and her hoary head), who approaches Time, and says, “ If your period be too scanty, I will engage that in the ages to come, which will always be ages to come, I will shew forth the triumphs of this mercy !” No; the mercy of God will never change: it is immutable, from everlasting to everlasting. O that you may all be brought to rejoice in the manifestations of this mercy! How foolish is that man who can go to sleep this night without it! All else is a trifle. Throw the crown of an empire into a ditch, throw a sum equal to the national debt away, and you would be wise, compared with the man who throws away from him the mercy of his God!
The innumerable forms in which God's mercy appears, shew that he “ delighteth in mercy.” The whole of the water that is in the world is called the ocean; but this takes various names, according to the shores it washes. That which washes the western shore, is called the Atlantic; that which washes the shores of Germany, is called the German Ocean; that which runs along the shores of Asia, is called the Pacific and the Indian Ocean; and so on: still, however, it is the same body of water. So it seems with the mercy of God: it bears different names, according to the state of those whom it visits. If it visit men who are far from God as a Saviour, it is termed calling mercy. If it come in the way of forgiving sin, it is called pardoning mercy. If man be exposed to danger from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and this mercy come to his relief, it is named protecting mercy. David wrote a song on this subject, in which he compares it to an eagle covering her eaglets with her feathers. If a man be in deep distress, then this mercy comes to him under the name of comforting mercy. God is said to “ comfort those who are cast down ;” and to be the “ God of all comfort;" and to comfort ministers, that they may be able to comfort others.
He delighteth in mercy. It is noticeable, that in heathen countries the only principle under the name of religion, by which the human mind is addressed, is the principle of terror. This appears in the very aspect of their gods, and in the entire system of their worship. Even the most enlightened nations formed their gods on this principle: they put the thunder into the right hand of their Jupiter— they placed the eagle at his feet — they represented him as ruling the world by terror; but it was reserved for revelation to emblazon the Divine character in the full circle of his perfections. The name of the God of the Jews, who is also the God of the Christians, is,
“ The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” But to delight in mercy, was a conception connected with the Deity, which the heathen world would never have formed. Let us place the prophet Micah on Mount Lebanon : there let him turn his eyes towards the north ; he beholds Tyre and Sidon worshipping Ashtaroth, Adonis, or Baal-zephon. Let him turn again toward the rising sun; there he beholds the whole of Persia worshipping the principle of fire, under the name of Baal. Then let him look westward; and there he sees the greatest and most polished of men worshipping a host of ideal deities, of whom I dare not read to your wives and daughters, lest their minds should be polluted. And let him look at mid-day upon Egypt; there he finds men worshipping gods that grew in their own gardens, and bowing down to beasts and to creeping things. These let the prophet survey; and while his mind sickens at the sight, let him look to the heavens above his head, and exclaim, “ Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy!"
There is much spiritual childhood in the strongest of
Led by appearances, afraid of the dark, backward to put confidence in God in the midst of the gloom. Now mark the strength of David's confidence, in the 42d Psalm
-a Psalm which contains a piece of valuable and useful godly experience. David complains that it was not with his soul as it had been formerly: he was in a state of banishment from the court, and he looks back to the time when he went with the multitude to keep the solemn feastdays; but in this state of mental distress, did he suffer his faith and confidence entirely to fail? No; he enlivens his soul,—“ Why urt thou cast down, O my soul? why art thou disquieted within me?" &c. &c. It is the spiritual expostulation of his goud mind, bringing forward and eliciting every latent spark of the divine life in his soul, producing, as it were, a resuscitation of all the holy principles in his bosom.
Look at Stephen, in a situation where, if ever, the risings of resentful passion might have been pardonable. He was suffering death by stoning; and when sinking under the pressure of the descending shower, what is bis language ?- he lifts up his eyes to Heaven, and says,
Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” He had finished his education at Calvary; and had learnt of Him whose name he bore to initate his dying feelings.
When we speak of “ God perfecting that which concerneth his people,” let it be observed, that the Lord preserveth his people in the paths of religion, by means of his word dwelling in them, by means of his ordinances administered, and the dispensations of his providence towards them. The idea, therefore, of God's preserving his people, while they are using every effort to escape from his merciful
grasp, is unscriptural and dangerous. The man who would tell us, that some years ago he was brought into a state of favour with God, but who is now reducing his family to beggary, and becoming the nuisance of his neighbourhood, speaks apart from the subject—the thunders of Heaven are directed against such a man. Another abuse of this doctrine is, when men relax their efforts to press forward in the path of piety and religion. The man who presumes to cease to be watchful, under the idea that the Lord" will perfect that which concerneth him,” is either a very bad man, or does not understand the subject. We have no instance in the word of God of a man that triumphed in the certainty of his perseverance, who did not put forth all his energies as much as if all depended upon himself. I improve this sentiment, then, as a powerful stimulus to your own watchfulness and exertion: be watchful, especially against the risings of corruption in your own bosom, — we have more to fear from ourselves than from all our enemies beside. Persevere – hold on to the end; your joys are joys of conquest, not of peace : your quarters may be broken up to-night, be ye
therefore ready —unbuckle not your armour, be always in a state of preparation for the conflict, and press forward, as if all depended upon yourself, and at the same time lean entirely on God. It is the union of these two exercises (as we have said a thousand times) —diligence in the use of means, united with entire recumbence on a divine arm, which constitutes the Scriptural view of the doctrine of perseverance.