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PSALM ci. l.


MERCY presupposes guilt and misery in those towards whom it is exercised. There must, therefore, have been a period when mercy was not known to be an attribute of the Deity, as there was a period when guilt and misery attached not to any creature. The angels, who, for aught we know to the contrary, were the first created of all intelligent beings, possessed an evidence of the power and wisdom of God in their own creation, and wonderful adaptation to the duties which they had to discharge: they were, in fact, witnesses unto themselves. But the angels possessed no evidence of the divine

mercy; for so long as they kept their first estate,—so long as guilt, and its inseparable attendant, misery, were unknown, there was nothing to call for the exercise of that attribute. And though on the fall of some of the angelic host, guilt was introduced into the creation of God, and an opportunity afforded for the exercise of mercy, yet it pleased Jehovah on that occasion to display his retributive justice, and to permit mercy to continue like the undiscovered and unwrought diamond, unseen and unappreciated by man. Since, however, the end which Jehovah has in view is the manifestation of his


own glory, it was not likely that He would permit so remarkable an attribute to continue for ever unknown. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that Jehovah had an eye to the manifestation of mercy when He created man.

I do not mean to say, that man was created simply that he might fall, and that God might have mercy upon him; but rather that God, when He created him, foreknew that he would fall, and determined to have mercy upon him. Now though I have no wish to exalt one perfection of God above another, for all are good and glorious, yet since He himself has laid a peculiar emphasis on the attribute of mercy, having solemnly declared that He delighteth in mercy, it cannot be improper in me to adopt the determination of the Psalmist, and to say, “I will sing of mercy.”

My subject, therefore, will be the mercy of God, as manifested towards guilty, miserable man.

1. The mercy of God towards guilty men has been signally displayed in sparing their lives. Our first parent Adam, when put upon his probation, was forewarned, that if he presumed to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in the day that he ate thereof, he should surely die. Nevertheless, despite of this merciful admonition, led away by the example of his wife, as she had been led away by the crafty suggestions of the serpent, he took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and consequently became obnoxious to death. This was not the only evil consequence of his transgression. Adam, being the federal head of the whole human race, as Christ, the second Adam, is the federal head of the people of God, his posterity were as much affected by his disobedience, as he himself was: they were attainted with him, though yet unborn; and hence it is written, “ Through the disobedience of one many were made sinners ;” and, “ Through the offence of one judgment on all men to condemnation.”

Some complain of this, and are ready to say in the language of the Israelites of the old times, “ The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge,” as though Jehovah had acted inequitably in thus visiting the sin of the father upon the children. But if it were needful for me to defend the equity of God, though this may well be deemed a work of supererogation, seeing that the Judge of all the world must do right, whether man's bounded understanding can discern his rectitude or not, I might say that such a principle is recognised as equitable by human laws; for if a man be attainted of high treason, the attainder affects, in many respects, his posterity ; so that the very blood is deemed tainted, the whole family disqualified for service and reward, and the consequences of his treason thus visited upon his remotest posterity. But if Adam's posterity had not been involved in condemnation through his disobedience, we might still have said, as indeed the Apostle Paul has said, that “death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” And yet, though Adam deserved to die; and though his posterity are as little entitled to the forbearance of Jehovah as himself, the mercy of God has been displayed in the sparing of those lives which justice declared to be forfeited. Adam though ignominiously expelled from Paradise,—though made subject to a gradual decay, through toil, and pain, and disease, so that he might be said to die daily, was allowed to live,not that he might atone for his sin, for that is a work which man must let alone for ever ; but that he might bring forth fruit meet for repentance, and show the work of the Spirit within him by walking with God in all holy obedience and sincerity. And Adam's posterity, the heirs of his miserable estate, have also been made the heritors of the mercy extended to him. Though multitudes by sinning provoke God to cut them off; and though his forbearance, in some instances, causes the hearts of sinners to be more fully set in them to do evil, yet He delays long to cut them down,—He is reluctant to cast them off for ever,—He would gladly gather them, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings; for judgment is his strange work, but He delighteth in mercy.


2. The mercy of God, so signally displayed in sparing the lives of guilty and miserable men, is no less signally manifested in continuing to them many good gifts. 'Tis true, the Lord has condemned them to a life of toil and sorrow, subjected them to sickness, disease, and death, and expelled them from that paradise which he originally planted for them; but it becomes us to look rather at the blessings which he has continued to them, than at those which he has taken away. The earth may not be as Paradise :--the thorn and the thistle may overspread it, when the labour of man is not expended upon it :the wickedness of man may have polluted it, so that it can no longer be his rest; but yet can we gaze upon it as it now is ? can we look upon the pastures clothed with flocks,—the valleys covered over with corn,—the mountains crowned, and mantled with green and waving forests,-the whole scene studded with the stately structures which wealth has called into being, or with the comfortable dwellings of the poor, and not be constrained to say, “I will sing of mercy ?” And though the Lord has justly condemned man to toil and sorrow, yet we may discern much of mercy in the sentence. been left without an occupation-had he been allowed to brood in sorrow over his sentence, he would have found existence insupportable. But as it is, his mind is actively employed; so that time passes swiftly; its rapid flight is lamented, rather than desired ; and labor, instead of being irksome to man, is so far pleasing, that he is with difficulty restrained from prosecuting it, even on that day on which the Lord has commanded him to rest. Without labor, indeed, men would neither be so

Had man

happy, nor so healthy, nor so useful, nor so free from temptation, as they now are. Nor does sickness, disease, or gradual decay prevent man from enjoying many good gifts of Jehovah. The faculty of acquiring knowledge, so mercifully continued to man when that of discerning the things of the Spirit of God was withdrawn, has furnished him, whether in sickness or in health, with an inexhaustible mine of enjoyment; and has reconciled many an invalid to that seclusion from the busy scenes of life, which, under other circumstances, would have been lamented, as the greatest of privations. But on this part of my subject, I must not dwell; and indeed were I to do so, I could not exhaust it: for it is a deep mine, and as rich as it is deep.

3. There are, however, loftier proofs of mercy still to be considered. That Jehovah should have spared guilty and miserable man; and that He should not only have spared him, but continued unto him the gifts and blessings which by his rebellion he had forfeited, may well be deemed a signal display of mercy.

But have we not still greater cause to sing of mercy, when we contemplate it, as displayed in the redemption of man's soul? In this act, mercy did indeed rejoice against judgment. What, dear brethren, was there in man to elicit such a display of mercy ? Granting that he had sinned, and become obnoxious to everlasting condemnation, was he penitent? Did he pray for mercy ? Did he seek reconciliation with God? No: when Jehovah charged Adam with his sin, instead of crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner,”—instead of desiring to be reconciled unto that glorious Being whom sin had made his adversary, he sought to transfer his guilt to another; and even ventured to charge it, in some measure, on God himself; for he said, “ The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." Nor can it be said that Adam's

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