« PreviousContinue »
Plal. çiii. 8. he is said to be plenieous in mercy; and rich in mercy, Eph. ii. 4. Pfal. v. %. he speaks of the mul. titude of God's mercies; and of the variety of them, Neh. ix. 19. In thy manifold mercies thou forfukeft them not. So many are they, that we are said to be surrounded and compassed about on every side with them ; Psal. ciii.
4: Who crowneth thee with loving kindness, and tender And yet, further, to set forth the greatness of them, the scripture useth all dimensions. Height; Pfal. Ivii. 10. Thy mercy is great unto the heavens. Nay, higher yet;. Pfal.cviii
. 4. Thy mercy is great above the heavens. For the latitude and extent of it, it is as large as the earth, and extends to all the creatures in it; Psal. cxix. 64. The earth, Lord, is full of thy mercy. Psal. cxlv. 9. His tender mercies are over all his works. For the length, or duration and continuance of it; Exod. xxxiv. 7. Laying up mercy in store for thousands of generations, one after another. Nay, it is of a longer continuance; Psal. cxviii. it is several times repeated, that bis, mercy endureth for ever.
And, to shew the intense degree of this affection of mercy or pity, the scripture useth several emphatical expressions to set it forth to us. The fcripture speaks of the tender mercies of God; Pfal. xxv. Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies. Yea, of the multitude of these ; Pfal. li. 1. According unto, the multitude of thy tender mercies blot put my transgressions. Jam. v. 11. The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. They are called God's bowels, which are the tenderest parts, and apt to yern and stir in us when any affections of love and pity are excited'; Isa. Ixiii. 15. Where is the founding of ihy bowels, and of thy mercies towards me? are they restrained? Luke i. 78. Through the tender mercy of our God; so it is in our translation : but, if we render it from the original, it is, through the bowels of the mercies of our God. How doth God condescend, in those pathetical expressions which he useth concerning his people ? Hof. xi. 8. How shell I give thee up, Ephraim? how foull I deliver thee, Ifrael? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I let thee as Zeboim ? mine heart is turned within me, and my repentings are kin
dled together. Nay, to exprefs his tender sense of our mileries and sufferings, he is represented as being afflieted with us, and bearing a part in our sufferings, Isa. Ixiii. 9. In all their afflictions he was afflicted.
The compaflions of God are compared to the tenderest affections among men: to that of a father towards his children ; Pfal. ciii. 13. Like as a father pitieth his children, fo the Lord pitieth them that fear him. Nay, to the compassions of a mother towards her infant Ifa. xlix. 15. Can a woman forget her • sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, fhe may, it is possible, though most unlikely : but though a mother may turn unnatural, yet God cannot be unmerciful.
In short, the scripture doth every where magnify the mercy of God, and speak of it with all possible advantage; as if the divine nature, which doth in all perfedions excel al others, did in this excel itself. The fcripture speaks of it, as if God was wholly taken up with it, as if it was his constant exercise and employment; so that, in comparison of it, he doth hardly display any other excellency; Pfal. xxv. 10. All the paths of the Lord are mercy; as if, in this world, God had a design to ad vance his mercy above his other attributes. The mercy of God is now in the throne; this is the day of mercy ; and God doth display it, many times, with a seeming dishonour to his other attributes, his justice, and holiness, and truth. His justice ; this makes Job complain of the long life and prosperity of the wicked; Job xxi. 7. Wherefore do the wicked live, yea, become old ? &c. His holiness; this makes the Prophet expoftulate with God, Hab. i. 13. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cant not look on iniquity : wherefore lookejt thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue ? &c. And the truth of God, this makes Jonah complain, as if God's mereies were such as did make some reflection upon his truth, Jonah iv. 2.
But, that we may have more distinct apprehenfions of the greatness and number of God's mercies, I will distribute them into kinds, and rank them ander several heads. It is mercy, to prevent those evils and miseries tbat we are liable to: it is mercy, to defer those that we have deserved, or to mitigate them : it is mercy, to support and confort us when misery is upon us : it is mer. cy, to deliver us from them: but the greatest mercy of all is, to remit the evil and misery we have deserved, by pardon and forgiveness, to remove and take away the obligation to punishment. So that the mercy of God may be reduced to these five heads :
I. Preventing mercy. Many evils and miseries which we are liable to, God prevents them at a great distance; and when they are coming towards us, he stops them, or turns them another way. The merciful providence of God, and thofe invisible guards which protect us, do divert many evils from us, which fall upon others. We feldom také notice of God's preventing mercy; we are not apt to be sensible how great a mercy it is to be freed from those straits and necessities, thofe pains and diseases of body, those inward racks and horrors which others are pressed withal, and labour under. When
any evil or misery is upon us, would we not reckon it a mercy to be rescued and delivered from it! And is it not a greater mercy that we never felt it? Does not that man owe more to his physician, who prevents his fickness and distemper, than he, who, after the weaknefs and languishing, the pains and tortures of several months, is at length cured by him?
II. Forbearing mercy. And this is the patience of God, which consists in the deferring or moderating of our deserved punishment. Hence it is, that flow to anger, and of great mercy, do so often go together. But this I shall speak to hereafter in some particular difcourses.
III. Comforting mercy; 2 Cor. i. 3. The father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. The scripture represents God as very merciful, in comforting and supporting those that are afflicted and cast down: hence are those expreflions of putting his arms under us; bearn ing us up; speaking comfortably; visiting us with his love ing kindness : which fignify God's merciful regard to those who are in mifery and distrefs.
IV. His relieving mercy, in supplying those that are in want, and delivering those that are in trouble. God doth, many times, exercise men with trouble and afflictis ons, with a very gracious and merciful design, to prevent greater evils, which men would otherwise bring upon themselves. Afflictions are a merciful invention of heaven to do us that good, which nothing else can; they awaken us to a sense of God, and of ourselves, to a con fideration of the evil of our ways: they make us to take notice of God, to seek him, and to inquire after him. God doth, as it were, by affiliations, throw men upon their backs, to make them look up to heaven. Hof. v. 15. In their affliction they will seek me early. Pfal. Ixxviii
. 34. When he flew them, then they fought him, and they returned and enquired early after God. But God does not delight in this; he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. When afflictions have accomplished their work, and obtained their end upon us, God is very ready to remove them, and command deliverance for us; Ísa. liv, 7. 8. For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gether thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, faith the Lord thy redeemer.
v. Pardoning mercy. And here the greatness and fulness of God's mercy appears, , because our sins are great ; Pfal lxxviii. 38. Being full of compassion, he forgave their iniquity. And the multitude of God's mercies, because our fins are many; Pfal. li. 1. Have mercy upon me, O God, ačcording to thy loving kindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Exod. Xxxiv. 9. He is faid to pardon iniquity, transgression and fin. How manifold are his mercies, to forgive all our sins, of what kind soever! The mercy of God to us, in pardoning our sins, is matter of astonishment and admiration; Micah vii. 18. Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity! But especially, if we consider by what means our pardon is procured; by transferring our guilt upon the most innocent person, the Son of God, and making him to bear our iniquities, and to suffer the wrath of God which was due to us. The admirable.contrivance of God's mercy appears in this dispensation ; this Thews the riches of his grace, that he should be at fo much cost to purchase our pardon; Not with corriko ptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious
blood of his own Son, Eph. i. 6. 7. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepied in the beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of
Having dispatched the three particulars I proposed to be spoken to, I shall Thew what use we ought to make of this divine attribute.
Ufe 1. We ought, with thankfulness, to acknowledge and admire the great mercy of God to us. Let us view it in all its dimensions: the height, and length, and breadth of it: in all the variety and kinds of it; the preventing mercy of God to many of us. Those mic series that lie upon others, it is mercy to us that we escaped them. It is mercy that spares us : It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, and because his compasions fail not. It is mercy that mitigates our punishment, and makes it fall below the desert of our fins. It is mercy that comforts and supports us under any of those evils that lie upon us, and that rescues and delivers us from them : which
foever we look, we are encompassed with the mercies of God; they compass us about on every side ; we are crowned with loving kindness, and tender mercies. It is mercy that feeds us, and clothes us, and that preserves us. But, above all, we should thankfully acknowledge and admire the pardoning mercy of God; Pfal. ciïi. 1. 2. 3. where David does, as it were,
the mercies of God, and make a catalogue of them; he sets the pardoning mercy in the front; Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thy iniquities.
If we look into ourselves, and consider our own temper and disposition, how void of pity and bowels we are, how cruel, and hard-hearted, and infolent, and revengeful; if we look abroad in the world, and see how full the earth is of the habitations of cruelty, we shall admire the mercy of God more, and think ourselves more beholden to it. How many things must concur to make our hearts tender, and melt our spirits, and stir our bowels, to make us pitiful and compassionate? We