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posterity have established any claim upon the mercy of God. If Adam sinned, they have trod in the same path, and added iniquity unto iniquity. If Adam sued not for mercy and peace, but preserved a moody silence, they have manifested equal impenitence and obduracy. And yet, though all this was foreknown,—though Jehovah well knew that man so far from desiring reconciliation with Him, would cherish a mortal enmity against Him, He commendeth, not his mercy merely, but his love towards us, in that He gave his Son, that guilty man might have “ redemption through his blood, the remission of sins according to the riches of his grace.” This stupendous act is designated by St. Luke, “ the mercy;" and not without reason; for it is not only the channel in which all other mercies flow, as the Psalmist intimates when he says,
“ All my springs are in thee,” but it is an incomparable mercy. One of the divines of the time of the restoration has the following striking observation on this point: “Draw the comparison how you will betwixt Christ and all other enjoyments, you will find none in heaven or on earth to equal him. He is more than all externals, as the light of the sun is more than that of a candle. He is more than all spirituals, as the fountain is more than the stream. He is more than justification, as the cause is more than the effect; more than sanctification, as the person himself is more than the image or picture. He is more than all comfort, all peace, all joy, as the tree is more than the fruit. Nay, draw the comparison betwixt Christ and things eternal, and you will find him better than they; for what is heaven without Christ? If Christ should say to the saints, “ Take heaven among you, but as for me, I will withdraw myself from you;” the saints would weep even in heaven itself, and say, “Lord, heaven will be no more heaven to us, except thou be there, who art by far the better half of heaven."
4. But incomparable as Christ is in himself, and undeserving as man was of such a gift, we shall have still greater cause to sing of mercy, if we consider the end for which Jehovah gave up his Son. "Christ, be it remembered, was the well beloved of the Father. Had God then given Him merely to visit mankind as a Teacher, or to rule over them as a King, the mercy would have been great; and they might justly have said, “ Thanks be to God, for his unspeakable gift!" But He did more than this. Mankind had become obnoxious to death; and without shedding of blood there could be no remission of their sins. The justice of God forbade such a thing; for sin must receive its wages,-a broken law must be avenged. It was expedient, however, in the estimation of Almighty God that one should die, and that one his own dear Son, rather than that the whole human race should perish. Was ever mercy like unto this? which of us would give a son,-an only child,—the joy of his heart to die for a friend ? Not one. But the glorious God gave his Son to die for his enemies. Well may this commend his mercy unto us! Well may it constrain us to say, “I will sing of mercy!”
5. The mercy of God is displayed likewise in the renovation of man's nature. It would have been of little avail that Jehovah had provided a Lamb for a sin offering, had man continued to pour contempt on the proffered mercy, as he undoubtedly would have done had he been left in a state of nature. But God, who is rich in mercy, did not act thus. Having provided a full and sufficient satisfaction for the sin of the whole world, He empowered the Son, as the Mediator, to send his Holy Spirit unto as many as He had given unto Him, that He might quicken them, and raise them from spiritual death to spiritual life—that He might dwell in their souls, and rectify the disorders that prevailed there, and give a new bias to all the faculties-yea, that He might
make the carnally-minded spiritual, and transform the lover of pleasure into a lover of God. And is it not an extraordinary mercy, that the great God should thus bring salvation to those that sought it not-to those who, had they been left to themselves, would have put it from them? But some one will perhaps say, the Lord then do violence to the will of man? Does He constrain him to be saved, despite of his own efforts to the contrary?” I have not said this. The Lord does indeed turn and dispose all hearts as seemeth best to his own godly wisdom-He makes the unwilling willing in the day of his power ; but He does all without violence. The grace of the Holy Spirit, like the dew which distils gently and imperceptibly, insinuates itself into the soul, and so operates upon the understanding, will, and affection, that the soul needs not violence to determine its choice, but surrenders itself willingly unto the Lord.
6. Let us not suppose that we have fully celebrated the mercy of God to guilty and miserable man in what has already been said. No, dear brethren, the mercy of God is a chain of many links, reaching from earth to heaven,-a chain let down into the heart of man when he was yet a stranger, wandering from the fold of God, -a chain which leads him on link by link, until he is securely moored in the haven where he would be. We have seen the sinner spared, and favored, and redeemed, and actually made a vessel-a recipient of mercy; and now let us further consider the mercy of God manifested in the donation of the richest spiritual blessings, and in the sanctification of the most painful temporal trials. The Lord Jesus has given unto his people this solemn warning, “Without me you can do nothing;” and happy are those servants who bear this warning in mind at all times. Such as are weak in their own estimation, and are led by a conviction of their weakness to make the Lord the arm on which they lean, are in reality
strong; for by this dependence they give glory unto the Lord, engage his omnipotence on their side, and move Him, as it were, to give unto them all things that pertain to life and godliness. All things that pertain to life and godliness! How large a mercy is this ! And how truly did the Lord speak, when He said, unto all that diligently hearken unto Him, that they shall not only eat that which is good, but that their soul shall delight itself in fatness! This gift evidently comprehends every spiritual mercy needful to secure the growth and perseverance of the believer, as well as every thing which is requisite to promote his comfort and happiness. It does not promise that his faith shall not be assailed, or that no obstacles shall be allowed to endanger his perseverance. No: a soldier must expect conflicts; and he who has many assailants cannot reasonably expect always to come off unscathed. It does, however, secure to him grace amply sufficient to help in the time of need; so that the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil shall not bring about his destruction, or prevent him from pressing on to the mark. It also guarantees to him cordials by the way, cordials to revive his fainting spirit, and to enable him to run with patience the race set before him. It guarantees to him peace. Yes, though in this world he may have tribulation,—though one wave of affliction may follow another, until his head is bowed down as a bulrush, in Christ he shall have peace ; for on Him he has fixed the anchor of his soul, and to his word he clings; and though deep may call unto deep,—though his bark may be tossed and rocked, he shall continue steadfast and immoveable in his dependence; nor can any one take the Lord's
from him. It guarantees to him joy also,-not such a joy as the worldling feels when he contemplates the store of goods which he has laid up for many days,—a joy which is as fleeting as the lightning which shineth from one end of heaven to the other, and yet vanisheth in a moment; but rather a joy which grows not on an earthly stock, and therefore cannot be affected by the destruction of any earthly good,—a joy which arises out of an assurance that salvation has been wrought in him as well as for him,-a joy, therefore, which is his strength in the hour of trial and exertion. Creature comforts may fail, and prove as broken reeds; but so long as Jesus is with him, the servant of God can say, “I will fear no evil:"_" although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be on the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls : yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” And mercy not only leads Jehovah to supply his servants with cordials by the way, but to sanctify the trials which He has ordained for them; for, as a pious Prelate of our Church has beautifully observed, “though round about our dwellings is planted a hedge of thorns, and bundles of thistles, the aconite and briony, the nightshade and the poppy, yet at the root of these grows the healing plantain, which rising up into tallness by the friendly invitation of heavenly influence, turns about the tree of the cross, and cures the wounds of the thorns, and the curse of the thistles, and the malediction of man, and the wrath of God.” In fact, grace so takes away the injurious properties of a believer's trials, that what seemed a deadly compound, becomes a salutary medicine to the soul; and instead of injuring it, turns unto its salvation. And thus the severity of God is merged in mercy,—his curse changed into a blessing,—and the things which seemed to be against the believer, become a means of promoting his soul's health and prosperity.