Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33


On the Building of Mercy.

By Archibald Mason.

Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian

Congregation, Wishawtown, Scotland.

PSALM 89.2.—“For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever.”

IN the first verse of this psalm, the inspired writer expresses his pious resolution, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations:” and in the second, he mentions the reason of it: “For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever, thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.”  In the former he mentions the subject of his song and discourse, and in the latter he describes the encouragement he had to engage in those exercises.  Since the Lord had authorised him to believe with the heart, and to confess with the mouth, that mercy shall be built up for ever, he resolves to make the divine mercy the subject of his everlasting song.  Since God had assured him that he would establish his faithfulness in the very heavens, he is emboldened to make the divine veracity the object of his daily discourse.  Since God designs to aggrandize his mercy and faithfulness in his people’s salvation, they have the best reason to celebrate their praise.

“For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever.”  In these words an attribute of the divine nature is mentioned, the mercy of God.  It is that divine perfection by which Jehovah exercises pity, or bowels of compassion, to his rational creatures in misery: by which he delivers them from the depths of wretchedness, and exalts to the heights of felicity all those who believe in Jesus.

Of this mercy it is said, it shall be built up.  There must be a divine work in which mercy shall be built up; and this is the work of redemption.  In the sacred oracles the mercy of God is always represented as connected with our salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ. In no other divine work is this perfection manifested; the display of it {2} is peculiar to the scheme of our redemption.  In that glorious work God’s mercy shall be built up.  These words import that the work of redemption is a building of mercy; and that this divine perfection is brightly displayed in that work.  The text also informs us of the duration of this building of mercy: it shall be built up for ever.  It is not for time only, but for eternity also.  In the duration which is measured by years, this building cannot be finished; but it will be carried on and perfected through everlasting ages, “for his mercy endureth for ever.”  I shall, therefore,

I.  Make some observations on the work of our redemption by Christ Jesus, as it is a building of mercy.

II.  Show how divine mercy is built up and displayed in that glorious work.

I.  Some observations are now to be made on the work of our salvation, as it is a building of mercy.

1st.  This building of mercy must be considered, in the formation of the plan of it, from unbeginning eternity.  As a plan, conceived in the mind, expressed in words, or drawn in miniature, is necessary for erecting a building among men, so in God’s redeeming work, which is the chief of his ways, a plan was necessary; that according to it, with infinite precision, every part of the building might be constructed. This plan was formed in the purpose of God, and this purpose was eternal.  “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church, the manifold wisdom of God.  According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eph. 3.10,11.  God’s purpose to exercise his mercy in saving some of Adam’s ruined family, through the mediation of his dear Son, was established from everlasting; and in the formation of it, the plan of this glorious building was drawn.  His knowledge conceived it, and his wisdom adjusted every part of this building. For it his sovereignty was exercised, and his love and grace were displayed. In the formation of this plan, provision was made for the honour of his justice, holiness, and truth; and his power was engaged for its execution.  But so glorious were the manifestations of his bowels of compassion, or his tender mercies, in the formation of this plan, that the grand edifice is called a building of mercy.  This plan, like its glorious Author, is infinitely perfect.  In it there is no defect, nothing to alter or amend; for his understanding is infinite, and he is wonderful in counsel, as well as he is excellent in working. {3}

2d.  This building must be considered in the divine choice of a fit person to execute this plan by erecting the building of mercy.  This was done when God made choice of his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man.  This was necessary. “Every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.” [Heb. 3.4.]  In the 19th verse of this psalm, this wonderful act of God is mentioned. “Then thou spakest in vision to thy Holy One, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.”  Though these words may relate to the divine choice and exaltation of David, the type, to the throne of Israel, they must be considered in their principal reference to Christ, the anti-type, who is both David’s son and David’s Lord.  It was for the sake of typifying him that those transactions concerning David were brought into existence. The Father did choose and exalt his own Son to be the builder of the fabric of mercy.  The prophet Zechariah, for the comfort of the Church, is employed to announce this great truth.  After he had said, in the name of the Lord, “Behold, I will bring forth my servant, the Branch,” he adds, chapter 6.12,13, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, Behold the man, whose name is the BRANCH, and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a priest upon his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”  Building the house of mercy, or the temple of the Lord, is the work which is assigned to the Lord Jesus.  His growing up out of his place, or his descent, in his incarnation, from the house and lineage of David, was a necessary preliminary to this work.  His bearing the glory, his sitting and ruling on his throne, and his being a priest upon his throne, are its glorious results.  All this was established in the counsel of peace between the Father and the Son.  This was from eternity; for of himself does Jesus say, “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” [Prov. 8.23.]  This was by the Father choosing him, for of him does Jehovah say to the Church, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” Isa. 42.1.  Christ’s relation to the Father, in the work of our redemption, is here declared: he is his servant in that work; and the way in which he came into that relation is also stated—it was by the Father’s choosing him: “Mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth.”

3d.  To the building up of mercy for ever also belongs God’s executing a legal contract with his only begotten Son for the erection of this glorious fabric.  As contracts between the parties concerned are {4} necessary in erecting buildings among men, so a mutual agreement between the Father and the Son was necessary, that divine mercy might be built up for ever.  This divine contract with the Builder of the house of mercy, was that everlasting covenant which God made with Christ, concerning the salvation of sinners.  As a description of the way in which mercy should be built up for ever, and his faithfulness should be established in the very heavens, the Lord immediately adds, in the next verse, “I have made a covenant with my chosen.”  In the execution of this covenant, the building of mercy has been begun, it is carried on, and it will be perfected.  In this eternal contract, the parties were infinitely voluntary: for the counsel of peace was between them both. The stipulations in this contract may be known from the scriptural account of them, and from what each party performs to the other in the execution of them.  In this covenant the Father engaged to prepare a human nature for the Son, to uphold him in his arduous work, to accept him and his work, to give him a numerous seed, and to accomplish all his promises; first to him, in his mediatorial exaltation and glory, and then to his people, by delivering them, for his sake, from sin and misery, and by bestowing on them, in him, the blessings of grace and glory.  The Son engaged, in this covenant, to accept God’s elect as his charge, to assume their nature, and in that nature, and in their stead, to finish the work that the Father gave him to do, for promoting the divine glory in their everlasting salvation.  This covenant, or contract, had most solemn ratifications.  It was ratified by the oath of God. When he made a covenant with his chosen, he sware to David, his servant: “The Lord hath sworn and will not repent; thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”  It was also ratified by Christ’s death. His blood is, therefore, called the blood of the covenant, and the covenant is called the new testament in his blood.  On these accounts he is “the Mediator of the new covenant, and the Surety of a better testament.”

4th.  This building of mercy must be considered in the work which this glorious Undertaker had to perform for laying its meritorious foundation.  He had to assume our nature.  Wonderful condescension! The eternal Word was made flesh; and God was manifest in the flesh. The Son of God became the son of man; and he who was in the form of God, took upon him the form of a servant.  He, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, was made in the likeness of man. He had to dwell in our world, to endure the contradiction of sinners against himself, and to bear the sinless infirmities of our nature.  He had to bring in an everlasting righteousness by yielding perfect obedience {5} to his own law in thought, word, and action, that through his obedience many guilty sinners might be made righteous.  He endured infinite sufferings in his soul and body from the power and malice of men and devils; but especially from his holy and righteous Father: when it pleased the Lord to bruise him, to put him to grief, and to make his soul an offering for sin.  “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” [1 Peter 3.18.]  This glorious Undertaker had also to die the death, to offer himself a sacrifice for our sins, and to give his life a ransom for many.  When he was just perfecting this great work, knowing that all things wore now accomplished, and having received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished, and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.” [John 19.30.]  In this manner the great Undertaker of the work of our redemption, laid the meritorious foundation of the building of mercy: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” [1 Cor. 3.11.]

5th.  The building of mercy must also be contemplated in the materials of which it is composed.  For all earthly buildings, materials must be provided; so also for this building of mercy.  How extraordinary, both in number and variety, were the materials which Solomon collected for building the temple at Jerusalem! Infinitely more glorious are the materials which our new-testament Solomon has secured for building his spiritual temple! We have an account of them, 1 Pet. 2.5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house.”  Those materials are also mentioned, Eph. 2.22, “In whom ye also are, builded together, for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”  In those texts, the pronoun, “ye,” refers to the materials of which the building of mercy is constructed.  They are the persons of men and women who are and shall be saved.  They may be considered in their relation to the divine decree, by which the building of mercy was determined.  In this view of them they are God’s elect; those persons whom the Father gave to the Son, in the everlasting covenant, to be saved in him with an everlasting salvation; those persons whom God did choose in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy, and without blame before him in love, [Eph. 1.4]: those persons whom he predestinated to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will [verse 5]; and those persons whom he did foreknow, and also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. [Rom. 8.29.]  The materials in the building of mercy may be considered also in their relation to their first covenant head [Adam], and also in their persons, as his ruined posterity.  In this view of them, they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; destroyed and self-destroyers. {6} Having sinned in Adam, and in their own persons, they are loaded with infinite guilt, and exist under a sentence of divine condemnation.  All the faculties of their souls, and the members of their bodies are defiled with sin, and are under its power; for they are dead in trespasses and sins. They are subjected to divine wrath; exposed to the curse of the law; and obnoxious to everlasting punishment.  They are unable to deliver themselves; nor can any creature accomplish their deliverance.  Of such materials as these, of persons who are in their deplorable condition, is the building of mercy composed.  For “God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” [Rom. 5.8.] Those persons may be considered in their connection with Christ, their Head and Saviour.  Dug out of the black quarry of nature by the Spirit’s regenerating work, they are vitally united to the person of Christ, and are become lively stones in the building of mercy.  Contemplated as they are in him, they are brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God.  By divine grace they have been quickened together with Christ; they have embraced him, and believed on him for salvation.  In consequence of this they are interested in the merit of his righteousness; possessed of the efficacy of his grace; and entitled to the blessings of his purchase.

6th.  This blessed building must also be viewed in the means that are employed for beginning and carrying it on.  In earthly buildings means are used for erecting them: so in the building of mercy, means are appointed of God for raising up his spiritual house.  These are his word and ordinances.  That mercy may be built up for ever in the sinner’s salvation, God has given to the children of men, in his holy word, a supernatural revelation of his will.  This word is the means of beginning and advancing a work of grace in the souls of men.  The word of precept discovers to them their sin, and the word of threatening unfolds their misery.  By these they are excited so to consider their ways as convinces them of their sin and misery, and constrains them to cry out, What shall we do to be saved? The word of the gospel is then applied to discover to them the Lord Jesus as their redeemer, and to enable them to believe in him that they may be saved. This same word is the means by which believers advance in holiness and comfort, and grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. In all divine ordinances, both private and public, this word of God is manifested to men.  It is the design of all the ordinances and duties of religion, to present to sinners the word of God, that they may be. brought to the building of mercy; and to the saints that they may be built up in it to eternal life.  This is the grand design of preaching {7} and hearing the gospel: “For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.  But we preach Christ, unto them who are called, Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God.” [1 Cor. 1.21, 23-24.] Those whom Christ has sent to preach the gospel are labourers together with him; and the church in which they labour is God’s husbandry, and God’s building.  With respect to this work, Paul declares, “According to the grace of God which is given to me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another man buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.” 1 Cor. 3.10.  As the church consists in her teachers, rulers, and members; so all her administrations constitute the appointed means, which are the scaffolding of the building of mercy.

7th.  This building may also be considered in the Spirit’s supernatural agency; by which it is begun, carried on, and perfected.  As the Father has contrived the plan of this divine building, and the Son has laid its meritorious foundation; so the Holy Spirit makes all effectual for the salvation of them who believe.  No power inferior to that which is divine, can bring any sinner to the foundation of the apostles and prophets, or cause any believer grow up unto an holy temple in the Lord.  In the former it is necessary that dead sinners should be quickened; darkened understandings enlightened; rebellious wills renewed; corrupt affections sanctified; and seared consciences made tender and pure.  In the latter operation it is equally necessary that strong corruptions should be subdued; languishing graces strengthened; ensnaring temptations resisted; difficult duties performed; and every believer be made to persevere in grace unto the end.  Every one of these is the work of that Spirit who divideth to every one severally as he will. [1 Cor. 12.11.]  In this building of mercy, the word and ordinances of salvation are by the operation of the Spirit, rendered effectual for converting sinners to Christ.  By the influence of the same Spirit, those very means are powerful in his hand, for causing believers make progress in the Christian life, till they are prepared for glory.  The Holy Ghost carries on in the Church a blessed ministration, by which the building of mercy rises among men.  When his influences are enjoyed abundantly, the sacred fabric, whether in the church or in the souls of believers, increases with the increase of God; but when those influences are restrained, the progress of the building is slow.  So intimately connected is the divine Spirit with the building of mercy, that believers, who are the lively stones that compose it, are called his temple.  It is by his influence that the saints are builded together in Christ Jesus for {8} an habitation of God. “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Eph. 2.22.  By his influence on believers in Christ, “all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” [verse 21.]  To the building of mercy, the Spirit’s operations are as necessary as is the divine contrivance of its plan, or the laying of its meritorious foundation.

8th.  We may also contemplate the building of mercy in its glorious consummation.  Since it is said, Mercy shall be built up for ever, the text directs our attention to it in its perfection hereafter.  The building up of mercy, in this world, is intended to introduce the erection of the blessed fabric in the heavenly state.  Contemplating those divine operations, by which mercy is built up in the Church below, we discern only a part of his work; and surveying this building, as it appears in this life, we see but a part—and the less glorious part—of the beautiful structure.  Concerning the building of mercy in glory above, we are assured, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Cor. 2.9.  There the saints shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father; shall be glorified together with Christ; shall be in the place where he is; and shall be ever with the Lord.  There they shall be delivered from all evil, moral and penal; from all enemies, inward and outward; from every imperfection; and from all change. There shall they see face to face; know even as they are known; be like their glorious Saviour; and shall see him as he is.  There they shall reign in life by Jesus Christ; walk with him in white; and shall sit with him in his throne.  “When the earthly house of their tabernacle shall be dissolved, they have a building of God and an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” [2 Cor. 5.1.]  When the time of their groaning here shall end, they shall be clothed upon with their house which is from heaven.  When they shall be unclothed, by putting off this tabernacle, they shall be clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life.  The building of mercy in heaven has its pearly gates; its jasper walls; its golden street; its divine temple; its glorious light; its crystal river of the water of life; its fruitful and medicinal tree of life; and the throne of God and the Lamb is in it.  The saints shall walk in the light of it; shall serve their God; shall have his name on their forehead; and shall reign for ever and ever.  Such is the scriptural drawing of the building of mercy in glory, when to all the saints of God, that which is in part shall be done away, and that which is perfect shall come.  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right {9} hand of God.  Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” Col. 3.1, 2, 4.

II.  We are now to show how divine mercy is built and displayed in the work of our redemption by Christ Jesus.—It is so built up; First, In bestowing the blessing of salvation on the vessels of mercy;—and, Secondly, In the displays that are made of divine mercy, in this work, on the vessels of mercy.

First.  Divine mercy is built up in the work of our redemption, by bestowing on the vessels of mercy, the blessings of salvation.  These blessings are unspeakably great, absolutely necessary, adapted to the sinner’s condition, innumerable, and everlasting.  The mercy of God is displayed in quickening those who were spiritually dead; in renewing depraved souls after the image of God; and in calling effectually into a state of grace, the rebellious and the disobedient.  In that work mercy is built up in justifying the guilty and the condemned sinner; in adopting into the divine family the outcast children of wrath; and in sanctifying those who were morally unclean.  Divine mercy, is also manifested by delivering sinners from the dominion of sin; the tyranny of Satan; the slavery of the world; and by introducing them into the glorious liberty of the children of God. [Rom. 8.21.]  Mercy is also built up in making those gracious communications by which believers are enabled to perform duties, to bear the cross, and to overcome their spiritual enemies.  It is also built up in bestowing on the saints communion with God; religious comfort; spiritual strength; and direction in all their ways.  Assurance of their interest in God’s salvation; ability to witness a good confession for the honour of his name; and grace to persevere unto the end, are gifts of divine mercy.  In the Christian’s enjoying victory over death; deliverance from the grave; a glorious resurrection; and an honourable sentence at the last day, mercy shall be conspicuously built up.  When the saints shall dwell above, and enjoy in heaven eternal glory, mercy shall be built up for ever.  By donations like these, the God of mercy displays his mercy, by giving to his people all the sure mercies of our new-testament David.

Secondly.  In the work of redemption, Mercy is built up in the manner of its exercise on the vessels of mercy.  For the illustration of this, the following things are mentioned:—

1st.  In the work of our redemption, divine mercy is built up for ever in the freeness of its exercise on the vessels of mercy.  Divine {10} mercy is freely exercised on miserable sinners, and all the blessings which flow from it are freely bestowed on them.  It is without money and without price that the blessings of mercy are bestowed on us. [Isa. 55.1.]  No merit of ours procures to us the exercise of mercy, for they are set in opposition to one another: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” Titus 3.5.  Divine mercy has for its object a miserable sinner, who is in a forlorn and perishing condition.  Nothing is found about the vessels of mercy, in their natural state, but guilt, pollution, and rebellion.  They are not destitute of merit only, but they are also deserving the infinite displeasure of the Almighty.  Notwithstanding their evil desert, mercy is extended to them, and forces it way to sinners, in spite of all that criminality which attaches to them.  Divine mercy, on this account, must be freely exercised to the children of men.  Nothing that is morally good is found about the vessels of mercy in their gracious state, but what is wrought in them by the Holy Ghost.  The continued exercise of mercy to them cannot be procured by their own merit; besides, through the working of remaining corruption in them, innumerable evils, hateful to God, and abominable in their nature, compass them about, even after they are called to be saints.  A discovery of these evils often constraining them to say, “Behold I am vile—I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  The continued exercise of God’s mercy to his own people must, therefore, be infinitely free.  This freeness of divine mercy, in its exercise to the children of men, is a part of its glory, which is brightly manifested in our salvation.

2d.  In the work of our redemption, divine mercy is built up for ever in the sovereignty of its exercise on the vessels of mercy.  Jehovah declares to Moses this property of his mercy, in the following words: “And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Exod. 33.19.  That God exercises his mercy to those miserable and guilty sinners only, whose everlasting salvation, in the good pleasure of his own will, he has determined in himself to accomplish, is the important truth which these words reveal.  He does not say, when making a statement of the moving and first cause of their Salvation, as he does here, I will be gracious to them who submit to the revelation of my grace, and I will show mercy on them who embrace the blessings of my mercy; but he plainly declares that he will be gracious and show mercy to those on whom he is pleased to exercise those divine perfections in their salvation.  It is indeed true {11} that all who are saved, cheerfully comply with the revelation of grace and mercy to them through the Mediator; but this is the consequence, and not the cause, of God’s being gracious and merciful to them. When Paul mentions God’s words to Moses, Rom. 9.15, he, in the 16th verse, deduces from them the following inference: “So, then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”  The cause of our salvation is not to be found in our willing or choosing it, nor in our running in the use of means to obtain it, but in God who showeth mercy.  This sovereignty is absolute; for with none took he counsel, and none instructed him.  His sovereignty is wise; for in the scheme of salvation we have the wisdom of God in a mystery, the manifold wisdom of God.  And this sovereignty is unimpeachable; for he does none wrong, when he does what he wills with his own. [Matt. 20.15.]  The apostle, after he had quoted God’s words concerning Pharaoh, Rom. 9.17, adds, verse 18, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” While he freely exercises mercy on the objects of his sovereign choice, he passes by the rest, and suffers them to perish in the hardness of their hearts.  Though sinners’ darkened minds and stubborn wills may oppose and blaspheme mercy’s sovereign exercise, it is considered as one of its brightest excellencies by all those who trust for salvation to him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

3d.  In the work of our redemption by Christ Jesus, God’s mercy is built up for ever in the fulness of its exercise on the vessels of mercy. As it is exercised to sinners in a free and sovereign manner; so it is exercised to them in great abundance.  In the holy scriptures, the Spirit employs several expressions which represent the infinite fulness of divine mercy: a few of them may be mentioned.—It is a multitude of mercy: “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy.” Psalm 5.7.  The infinite stores of mercy which exist in the divine nature; the innumerable blessings which flow to sinners from this mercy; and the great multitude of persons who partake of those blessings, are signified by the multitude of mercy.  God’s mercy is plentiful: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” Psalm 103.8.  There is no scarcity of mercy in God, nor in the exercise of it to his people; but there is in him such an infinite plenty, or fulness of mercy, and in his dispensations also to his people, as verifies completely that declaration: “Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.” [Psalm 130.7.]  There is a richness in divine mercy: “But God who is rich in mercy.” Eph. 2.4.  This character of mercy illustrates and {12} confirms its overflowing fulness, and its incomparable excellency.  It is both a plentiful and a rich store of mercy.  The blessings which proceed from it are both innumerable and infinitely precious.  This mercy is likewise said to be abundant: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.” 1 Pet. 1.3.  The all-sufficiency of this mercy, and its super-abounding exercise to sinners through Christ, are disclosed to our faith in this property of it: “Where sin abounded, grace (or mercy,) did much more abound.” [Rom. 5.20.]  Sin has, indeed, abounded unto our death and destruction; but mercy hath much more abounded unto our life and salvation.  Mercy, delivering us from the abounding of sin, rejoices over judgment; but sin and judgment shall never triumph over mercy. Did we consider the greatness of the misery from which we are delivered, the number and value of the blessings in which we are interested, and the indescribable unworthiness of our persons in the sight of God, we would be convinced of the fulness of God’s mercy to them who are saved.

4th.  In the work of our salvation by Christ Jesus, divine mercy is built up for ever in the righteousness of its exercise on the vessels of mercy.  As its exercise is free, sovereign, and abundant, it is also just and righteous.  The demands which divine justice had on the subjects of mercy, as guilty sinners, are not neglected when the Lord extends mercy to them.  The honour of divine faithfulness is not compromised when the Lord has mercy on whom he wills to have mercy.  The claims which the divine law prefers against them, as transgressors of its precepts, are not set aside when the Lord justifies the ungodly, and saves the sinner.  On any of those suppositions it would have been an unrighteous exercise of mercy, and an act of which God, the judge of all the earth, is incapable.  How then can sinful and miserable men find mercy, when the righteous claims of the justice, the faithfulness, and the law of the Eternal, oppose its exercise to them? Had the resolving of this difficulty been submitted to the combined wisdom of angels and men, it would have confounded all of them for ever.  But what created intelligence could not devise, the infinite wisdom of God has contrived.  In the substitution, the incarnation, the obedience, the sufferings, and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the claims of justice are answered, the honour of God’s faithfulness is maintained, and the divine law is magnified and made honourable in the salvation of sinners. [Isa. 42.21.] The grace or mercy of God reigns through righteousness by Jesus Christ our Lord.  That mercy, according to which Jehovah saves us, {13} by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, is shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our saviour.  By the righteousness of our Redeemer, the demands of justice are answered—for God is just when he justifies those who believe in Jesus; the faithfulness of God in the threatenings is vindicated when they were executed on Christ who was made sin for us [2 Cor. 5.21]; and the charges of the law are satisfied when the Son of God was made of a woman, made under the law, and redeemed them who were under the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons. [Gal. 4.4,5.]  In the person and mediation of Jesus, divine mercy has obtained a channel through which it flows, and communicates to guilty sinners the blessings of salvation, not merely in a consistency with the honour of the justice, faithfulness, and law of God, but also in such a way as promotes most illustriously the glory of each of them.  When this is contemplated by believers in the exercise of faith, it fills their hearts with joy unspeakable, because they see that in their salvation by Christ Jesus, mercy and truth have met together, and that righteousness and peace have kissed each other. [Psalm 85.10.]

5th.  In the work of our redemption by Christ the Lord, divine mercy is built up for ever in the tenderness of its exercise on the vessels of mercy.  Though it vents to us through the awful channel of the vicarious obedience, the precious blood, and the penal death of the Son of God in our nature, that the demands of inflexible justice, of inviolable faithfulness, and of the fiery law against us, might be fulfilled; yet it is exercised to us in Christ with infinite tenderness.  The whole scheme of our salvation, and its external and internal administrations, originate in this tender mercy: “Through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us.” Luke 1.78.  So tender is the exercise of divine mercy to believers, that Paul calls it “bowels and mercies,” [Phil. 2.1]; and David says, “Who crowneth me with loving-kindness and tender mercies.” [Psalm 103.4.]  He exercises this to his people under all their troubles: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” James 5.11.  With all his flock, the great Shepherd of the church acts in the most compassionate and tender manner; for of him it is said: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arms, and shall carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Isa. 40.11.  Under all their spiritual troubles he acts to them in the same way: “A bruised reed he shall not break, and the smoking flax he shall not quench; he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” Isa. 42.3.  In the exercise of the Lord’s mercy to his people there is such compassionate tenderness as {14} brightly displays its glory, and encourages his people to trust in it.  “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” [Psalm 103.13.] Let Christians, therefore, trust in the Lord at all times, and for all things, as their God, and as the Father of mercies; “for the Lord taketh pleasure in his people, and in them that hope in his mercy.” [Psalm 149.]

6th, In the scheme of our salvation by the Redeemer, this mercy is built up for ever in the seasonableness of its exercise on the vessels of mercy.  The scriptural account of mercy’s exercise demonstrates that this properly belongs to it.  How seasonable was the first revelation of mercy to our original progenitors, when they were loaded with guilt by the first act of human transgression, when their consciences condemned them; when they, for the first time, found working in their hearts, slavish fear of God as an enemy, when they stood trembling before his tribunal, and when they heard the sentence which condemned them! At this awful crisis, in an address to the serpent, God intimated mercy to fallen man: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt braise his heel.” Gen. 3.15.  By these words Jehovah assured our first parents, that, though Satan had gained a complete victory over them, yet he would destroy the peace between Satan and them, and deliver them from his power, by raising up to them a seed of the woman, his own Son, in our nature, who should bruise the head of the old serpent, while Satan, in the uttermost of his malice and power, should only bruise his heel.  To sinners, at the time of their conversion, and to the saints in the day of their distress, the exercise of mercy is seasonable.  God’s calling Saul of Tarsus by his grace, and revealing his Son in him, when on his way to Damascus, filled with persecuting rage, is a proof of the former; and his meeting with Jacob at Peniel, when his brother was marching against him with four hundred armed men, is a confirmation of the latter.  All the visitations of mercy, both to sinners and to believers, partake of the same property.  Brought low by conviction of his sin, distressed with fears of divine wrath, and all refuge failing him, the sinner, by converting grace, is conducted to Christ, is turned into the stronghold of salvation, and feels himself warranted to say, “but I obtained mercy.”  To believers also in the time of their need, mercy’s visits are seasonable; for David’s words record the experience of every one of them: Psalm 94.18, “When I said my foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.”  Let all those who are blessed with saving mercy observe the seasonableness of its manifestations to them, that they may be enabled to praise him aright: saying, “I was brought low, and he helped me.” [Psalm 116.6.] {15}

7th.  In the plan of our redemption by Jesus Christ, God’s mercy is built up for ever, in the efficacy of its exercise on the vessels of mercy. The displays of mercy, as they are seasonable, so they are also powerful and efficacious.  Were it otherwise, it might fail in delivering its objects; but this is impossible.  As this mercy belongs to the Almighty God, who has an arm that is full of power, his mercy must be infinitely efficacious.  No opposition can prevent its successful exercise on its objects.  The opposition from without, arising from Satan and the world, is broken down and overcome by the powerful stream of mercy, flowing to its objects from the bowels of Jehovah, in the channel of the person and mediation of his beloved Son, and communicated in its effects by the power of the Holy Ghost.  The opposition from within, springing from guilt and depravity, is also subdued by the quickening, justifying, and sanctifying operations of mercy.  It is efficacious in delivering its objects from the miseries to which they are subjected, and in bestowing on them the blessings of which they stand in need.  It is the hand of mercy which lifts the law-condemned sinner out of the pit in which there is no water, and fixes him on the rock of ages.  It is the same powerful arm of mercy which supports the saints under all their troubles; which strengthens them in the performance of all their duties; which makes them victorious over all their enemies; and which will at last bring them through death to eternal glory.  The deliverance of Israel out of Egypt is ascribed to this efficacious mercy: “Thou, in thy mercy, hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed; thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.” Exod. 15.13. O! how efficacious was this mercy in forgiving their sin in the wilderness: “Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt even until now.  And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word.” Num. 14.19,20.  Much more reason have we to expect, that his mercy shall be efficacious in accomplishing the salvation of his Israel in Spirit.  “How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?” [2 Cor. 3.8.]

8th.  In the work of our salvation through Jesus Christ, the mercy of God is built up for ever, in the eternity of its exercise on the vessels of mercy.  As Jehovah’s mercy to his people is free, sovereign, abundant, righteous, tender, seasonable, and efficacious; so it is also eternal. This is that property of divine mercy, and of its exercise to us in Christ, which perfects all its other properties, and adds a glory and beauty to each of them.  How frequently do the scriptures declare that his mercy endureth for ever! In a very remarkable form is this truth declared: {16} Psalm 103.17, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon all them that fear him.”  Our God is the everlasting God, and all his attributes partake of the necessary eternity of his essence. The blessings which flow to us from divine mercy are everlasting, and the saints shall be preserved in the enjoyment of them through endless ages; this mercy shall, therefore, be exercised to them in Christ for ever and ever.  The everlasting exercise of mercy to the redeemed of the Lord, was the principal thing which affected the Psalmist’s mind at this time; for he says, “Mercy shall be built up for ever.”  This consideration should fill our souls also with most enlarged satisfaction. Divine mercy is built up, not merely in the enjoyment of grace in the church below, but chiefly in the enjoyment of glory in the sanctuary above; and that glory is a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. [2 Cor. 4.17.]  In the saints enjoying eternal life, God’s mercy shall be built up, not only in this world, where there is none abiding, but also in the world to come, where there are everlasting habitations.  As the saints in the heavenly state shall be ever with the Lord, so it is their duty, while they are in the body and absent from the Lord, to comfort themselves and one another with these words. [1 Thess. 4.18.]

This discourse must now be concluded with a few reflections.

1st.  How glorious is the church of God on the earth! On account of that redemption work which is carried on in her, she receives names which manifest her glory.  The church is a building of mercy.  She consists in a collection of human persons, in whose eternal salvation through Christ, God’s mercy is built up, displayed, and glorified for ever; she is “a palace of silver,” [Cant. 8.9,] the residence of the King of Glory, and composed of the most durable, precious, and beautiful materials. She is “a holy temple;” [Eph. 2.21,] a sacred company among whom the pure worship of God is celebrated, and that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, is practised.  She is “a spiritual house,” [1 Pet. 2.5,] composed of those who are renewed in the spirit of their minds; who believe spiritual mysteries; who offer up spiritual sacrifices; and worship God in the spirit: its foundation, its superstructure, and its uses are infinitely superior to those of the world.  She is in our Lord Jesus Christ “an habitation of God through the Spirit.”  Each Divine person is connected with this structure of mercy.  Christ is her foundation and chief corner-stone; the Spirit is her cement and animating principle; and the Father is her proprietor and glorious inhabitant.  All this glory belongs to the church; because in her mercy is built up for ever in the salvation of men.  How earnestly should we desire spiritual membership {17} in her, and how diligently should we use the means of obtaining it? All who are lodged in this building are crying to those who are without “Come thou with us and we will do thee good, for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.”

2d.  How suitable is the work of redemption to the condition of mankind sinners! In the infinite wisdom of God, it is well adapted to them in their natural, gracious, and glorified states.  In our natural state we are dead, guilty, defiled, and rebellious sinners.  In the building of mercy provision is made for communicating life to the dead, pardon to the guilty, holiness to the unclean, and for bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.  By these operations does the Lord remove sinners from the ruins of their fallen state, from their federal relation to the first Adam, and from the world lying in wickedness, that he may unite them to Christ as their foundation, connect them with the fair fabric of mercy, and lay them as lively stones in his spiritual house.  In their gracious state believers are weak in themselves; pressed with many wants; exposed to many troubles; and called to the performance of difficult duties.  The divine administrations which relate to the building of mercy, make the polished stones strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might; supply all their need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus; cause all things to work together for their good; and furnish them abundantly unto every good work.  The building of mercy is suited to sinners, because it brings them to itself; and to saints, as it builds them up in their most holy faith.  He who has devised the building of mercy is infinitely powerful, both to begin it in the sinner, and to carry it on in the saint to a glorious termination.  As this building is suited to us, whether we are in the state of nature, or in that of grace; so it is adapted to the state of the saints in glory.  When they arrive at the heavenly rest, they will find the very same building of mercy in a state of perfection; and the Head-stone of it brought forth with shouting, crying, grace, grace unto it.  There they will find and enjoy the same God and Father; the same Mediator and Saviour; the same Spirit and Comforter; and the same everlasting covenant, and eternal life.  As the exercises and blessings of believers in this life are answerable to their state of imperfection; so their employment and felicity in heaven will be completely accommodated to their situation when they shall be like Christ, and shall see him as he is.  In the building of mercy there is a sufficiency of power to bring the sinner to the Saviour; abundance of grace for nourishing believers on the bread of life; and an inexhaustible fulness of glory for solacing the saints for ever. {18}

3d.  How wonderful are the effects of the building of mercy both to God and man! To God the consequence is an unmatched and everlasting revenue of glory; and to men it will be their enjoying endless and incomprehensible treasures of blessing.  When the Son of God was born into the world, a multitude of the heavenly host, who knew perfectly the design of his coming, and the consequences of his work, praised God and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.” Luke 2.14.  These words describe the building of mercy in its consequences, both to God and to his people. By it glory is given to God in the highest; in the highest degree, in the highest heavens, among his most dignified creatures, and in the most elevated songs.  In our salvation by divine mercy, a revenue of glory is given to the divine nature, to the divine persons, to the divine perfections, to the divine law, to the gospel of divine grace, and to all the divine administrations in time and through eternity.  In the building up of mercy for ever, peace is proclaimed on earth, and good will to men.  Peace with God and reconciliation to him, peace of conscience, and all spiritual prosperity are enjoyed by the subjects of mercy.  In this work good will, free favour, special love, with all the blessings of salvation here and hereafter, are the present portion, and will be the future and everlasting inheritance of the saints.  Since the building up of mercy in our salvation promotes the divine glory, and secures the spiritual and everlasting blessedness of believers, we must have the most powerful encouragement to comply with that call, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  In forming the scheme of our salvation, in preparing a way for conveying and applying all its blessings to those who enjoy them, the mercy of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is built up and glorified for ever.  O, then, let us search into this mercy; let us admire it, and hope in it for ever.

4th.  How great is the blessedness of the “vessels of mercy!” and how dreadful must be the misery of the “vessels of wrath!”  When speaking of men under these designations, the apostle uses the following words, “What if God willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” Rom. 9.22,23.  The vessels of mercy, or true believers, are made to honour; but the vessels of wrath, or sinners continuing in their unbelief and rebellion against God, are made to dishonour.  In the latter he shows his wrath, and makes known his power, in their destruction; in the former he makes known the riches of his glory in their salvation. {19} To the one class he exercises much long-suffering, while they, by a lifeof sin, are fitting themselves for destruction; but to the other he displays his mercy, while he is, by his Spirit, his word, and his grace, preparing them for glory.  The one he will fill with wrath, for they can hold no other thing; and the other he will replenish with the blessings of mercy.  Glory, honour, and peace shall be the portion of the godly; but indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, will be the punishment of the wicked.  When contemplating the portion of the vessels of mercy, created intelligence is lost in wonder and delight; and in surveying the misery of the vessels of wrath, it is overwhelmed with fear and dread.  These considerations should constrain us to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life.

5th.  How clearly is the duty of sinners exhibited by this subject! The text informs us that it is God’s design to build up his mercy in the salvation of them who are lost.  Had it not been Jehovah’s purpose to save the miserable, the building would not have been a building of mercy.  Were there no guilt and condemnation, there could be no misery; and were there no misery, there could be no occasion for the exercise of mercy.  The building of mercy has commenced among ruined men; and among perishing sinners it is also in progress, that they, fleeing from threatened destruction, may believe in Christ and be saved.  The Redeemer’s perfect righteousness is freely offered to us; the means of obtaining an interest in it we enjoy; the Spirit who applies it is promised; and all the blessings of mercy are exposed to those who will receive them: and shall we despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance, and his long-suffering patience with us, and by a hard and impenitent heart, shall we treasure up to ourselves wrath against the day of wrath? Should we not rather, under a conviction of our guilt and misery, receive and rest on Christ for salvation, and subscribe ourselves everlasting debtors for eternal life, to the Father’s mercy venting to us through the mediation of his dear Son? This, O christians! this is a matter of infinite importance to us all.  Let us beware of building our salvation on a foundation of sand; for the time of trial will approach, when the rain will descend, the floods come, and the winds blow on our house, and it shall fall.  Let us, therefore, build our salvation on the rock of ages, that, when the rain descends, the floods come, and the winds blow, our house may stand, because the object of our trust is the Lord Jesus, who is the sure foundation of the building of mercy.  Influenced by our natural folly in building on the sand, we will despise Christ’s warning, and bring on ourselves everlasting ruin. Directed by the wisdom that cometh from above, in building on this {20} rock, you will comply with Christ’s sayings, and will yield him universal obedience.  Come, O Christians, and embrace Christ, and by faith in him, connect yourselves with the building of mercy, so shall ye escape condemnation, and inherit everlasting life.

6th.  This subject shows us the object in which the Lord delights: “He delighteth in mercy.” Mic. 7.18.  By the exercise of his mercy, in which he delights, he pardoneth iniquity, he passeth by the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage, and he retaineth not his anger for ever.  A view of the Lord’s mercy, and of its exercise to them, makes believers exclaim with joy and wonder, “Who is a God like unto thee!”  In carrying on the building of mercy, God delights in mercy, and in the exercise of it to the guilty and miserable.  This should encourage us to betake ourselves to his mercy; for the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy.  Jesus, who is the foundation of the building of mercy, and whose mediation is the channel of the exercise of mercy to sinners, is the highest object of God’s delight.  Behold, says the Lord our God, “behold mine elect in whom my soul delighteth.”  Let us choose, as the objects of our delight, the things in which the Lord delighteth.  Since he delighteth in mercy, let us delight in it as the source of our salvation and the object of our hope.  Since he delighteth in Christ, let him be the object of our faith, of our love, and complacency.  Since he delights in the exercise of his mercy to us through Christ’s person and righteousness, let us trust in his mercy, that it may be exercised to us in the Redeemer’s atonement, for our eternal redemption.  As his delight in those objects is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, let your delight in them be holy, habitual, and increasing.  If you delight in the objects which he abhors, they will procure your ruin; but if you choose the things in which he delighteth, they will be your consolation in life, in death, and through eternity.

7th.  This subject discovers our best encouragement to turn to the Lord, and to expect the removal of his anger from us: it is this building of mercy, “Return thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall on you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord.” Jer. 3.12.  Who can fully understand the meaning of those words, which God addresses to persons in guilt and misery; “for I am merciful, saith the Lord?”  I am merciful in my nature; merciful in my decrees; merciful in my promises; merciful in my operations: and I have a building of mercy going forward on the earth, for the salvation of ruined sinners.  What an encouragement is this to turn to the Lord; for obtaining deliverance from his anger and all its effects; and an interest {21} in his mercy and all its blessings.  This encouragement is adapted to the condition, both of the sinner and the saint.  The former, remaining under the guilt of sin, is exposed to divine wrath; and the latter, chargeable often with filial transgressions, is visited with fatherly displeasure.  To both, in their respective situations, this building of mercy furnishes encouragement and consolation.  To sinners, mercy is first exercised through Christ, in bringing them out of their natural state; and then, to them, as recovered believers, it is exercised in forgiving their sins, as they are the provocations of sons and daughters.  To no person can mercy be exercised in turning away from him fatherly correction, the effect of filial guilt, till that attribute has been displayed in delivering him, through the righteousness of Christ, from legal guilt and penal wrath.  Let sinners, therefore, turn to the Lord by faith in Jesus, and he will have mercy on them, and will abundantly pardon.  Let believers also return to the mercy of God in Christ, in the faith of the promise, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” [Isa. 43.25.]

8th.  This subject exhibits the great substance of the believer’s privileges; it is a place in the building of mercy.  Paul expresses the privileges to which he was advanced, in that memorable day when he became interested in God, united to Christ, possessed of the Spirit, a subject of saving grace, and entitled to glory, in the following words: “But I obtained mercy.” [1 Tim. 1.13.]  So is it with all believers: they also obtain mercy.  They who obtain mercy obtain all things.  Of them it may be said, All things are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. [1 Cor. 3.21-23.]  How immense, both in number and value, are the blessings which flow from the infinite bowels and mercies that are in God! All these are enjoyed by the subjects of mercy.  Those who have a place in the building of mercy are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  They are delivered from all the threatenings, they are entitled to all the promises, and they are heirs of God through Christ, as the strength of their heart and their portion for ever. Let us all fly to this mercy, embrace it by faith, and meditate on it day and night.

9th.  This subject directs our mind to the grand cause of the believer’s thanksgiving.  This is the divine mercy.  “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.  O give thanks unto the God of gods; for his mercy endureth for ever.  O give thanks to the Lord of lords; for his mercy endureth for ever.” [Psalm 136.1-3.]  A spiritual perception of divine mercy, of its suitableness to us, and of our need of it, will constrain us to make it the matter of our song.  With that pious {22} resolution, all true believers will concur: “I will sing of the mercy of the Lord for ever.” [Psalm 89.1.]  As God delights in the exercise of his mercy to believers, they delight in receiving the gifts of mercy, and in praising him for the fountain from which they flow.  When the fearers of the Lord are called, by divine dispensations, to sing of judgment, they connect with it a song of mercy: “I will sing of mercy and of judgment.” [Psalm 101.1.] Convinced, as they are, that mercy is mingled with all their trials, they will say, when his chastening hand is on them, “It is of the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed.” [Lam. 3.22.]  This grateful song of divine mercy believers should utter in secret, private, and public duties. They know that this song, which they have begun on earth, shall be perfected and perpetuated in heaven; for mercy shall be built up for ever.  Let us, therefore, endeavour to say, “I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify thy name for ever more; for great is thy mercy toward me, and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.” Psalm 86.12,13.

10th.  This subject shows us the object of the saint’s faith: it is the divine mercy. “I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.” Psalm 52.8.  Since it is according to his mercy that he saves us, those who believe in him for salvation, must fix their faith on his mercy. On him who is the Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, all the saints rely for eternal life.  This is the character of those in whom the Lord delights: “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” [Psalm 147.11.]  Our thoughts of divine mercy which are not accompanied with reliance on that divine perfection for salvation through Jesus Christ, are unprofitable and vain.  When infinite mercy is spiritually discerned, the soul rests on the God of mercy in Christ, for pardon, holiness, and eternal glory.  The mind being enlightened in the knowledge of the way of salvation by divine mercy, through the Redeemer’s atonement, and the heart being satisfied of its truth, excellency, and offer to him, the person is determined, by the Spirit’s operations, cordially to embrace this mercy through Christ, as the source of his salvation, daily to improve it as the object of his faith, and joyfully to expect, that the blessings of mercy shall be bestowed on him, both in time and through eternity.  Mercy in Christ is freely offered to miserable sinners, in the faithfulness of God.  O let us thankfully embrace it, and place our confidence in it for ever.  Since we are among the miserable to whom mercy is revealed, we are the objects of mercy; let us, therefore, fly to Divine mercy, reigning through the Saviour’s righteousness, that we may become the subjects of mercy, the vessels of mercy, and the monuments of mercy for ever more. {23}

11th.  This subject suggests to us the principal matter of the believer’s prayer: “Our eyes,” says the church, “wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.  Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us; for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.” Psalm 123.2,3.  In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, the Lord Jesus enjoins on us this important duty: In the mouth of the penitent Publican, he puts, for our instruction and encouragement, those important words, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Since his mercy is revealed and offered to us in the gospel, and secured to us by the divine promise in Christ, we are warranted to pray for an interest in his mercy, and for the enjoyment of its blessings.  The neglect of this duty must proceed from ignorance both of bur own spiritual condition, and of that mercy by which we can be delivered from the wrath to come, and enriched with the blessings of salvation. When the Divine Spirit, by means of the Word, dispels the clouds which darken the mind and harden the heart, the sinner will then duly appreciate divine mercy; will clearly see the importance of an interest in it; and will earnestly pray, “Let thy mercies come also to me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according to thy word.” [Psalm 119.41.]  Fervent and frequent prayers for divine mercy, in the channel of the Redeemer’s atonement, are an evidence of our interest in that mercy which is built up for ever in the salvation of man.  O, that we were all supernaturally excited to cry, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on us.” [Mark 10.47.]

12th.  This subject unfolds to our view the believer’s principal motive for exercising a merciful and compassionate disposition to his fellow-creatures: it is divine mercy.  In the exercise of those dispositions we are followers of God.  It is likewise his commandment, “Be ye, therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6.36.  It is in obedience to the command, and in imitation of the example of the Lord their God, that true Christians show mercy to others who need their help.  Charitable deeds, which flow from natural sympathy, excited by the sufferings of a fellow-creature, without any regard to the law’s precept which requires, or the Lawgiver’s doings which exemplify, acts of mercy, cannot be acceptable to God; because, in actions of this description, he is entirely disregarded.  Charitable actions which are performed to gain the applause of men, or to procure the favour of God, are also unacceptable to him; because in them both his precept and his promise in Christ are despised.  The person who has obtained mercy through Christ, will be constrained, by the divine precept and example, to be merciful to others: “And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another; even as God for Christ’s sake hath {24} forgiven you.” [Eph. 4.32.]  The Lord’s promise, evangelically considered, has influence on believers in those actions: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” [Matt. 5.7.]  A religious fear of the divine threatening may lawfully co-operate with faith in the promise, to direct believers in those duties: “For he shall have judgment without mercy, who hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” [James 2.13.]

To conclude.  This subject discovers to all of us our present duty. Shall mercy be built up for ever in the salvation of sinners? O, then, “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”  Jehovah’s throne of grace is revealed to us in his word; by the dispensation of divine ordinances it is erected among us in the church; mercy and grace are to be found there; and we have a divine call to come to it for salvation.  O, how dreadful must be the stupidity, and aggravated the rebellion of those who despise the riches of divine mercy, and, by an evil heart of unbelief, continue in a course of sin, and depart from the living God! O sinners, embrace that Saviour whom mercy has sent; come to that fountain which mercy has opened; take hold of that covenant which mercy has established; receive by faith, for your justification, that righteousness, that sacrifice, and that blood which mercy has provided; entertain, for your regeneration and sanctification, that Spirit whom mercy gives; take into your hearts that grace which mercy bestows; and attach yourselves, by faith in God through Christ, to the spiritual building which mercy is carrying on: so shall you be delivered from condemnation, and enjoy eternal life.  Let the saints also come to God in Christ, that they may obtain renewed communications of divine mercy according to their need.  Improve aright the ordinances you enjoy for obtaining from God mercy and grace.  Consider in what things you chiefly need for your souls, the exercise of mercy.  Apply to him for those blessings of his mercy, that are adapted to your condition. Leave to the determination of his infinite wisdom, those manifestations and gifts of his mercy, that he may be pleased to bestow.  Be thankful for what you do enjoy.  Improve to his glory, and your own advantage, the blessings which he may communicate.  Be concerned that he may carry on the building of mercy in your own souls, and in the church, till the holy fabric, both in the one and the other, be consummated in glory for ever.