2 Timothy 1:18
The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered to me at Ephesus…
I. WHENCE ARISES OUR NEED OF MERCY?
1. Our need of mercy arises from our guilt, for mercy is kindness or favour shown to those who are undeserving of it. Our guilt arises from our personal disobedience to the Divine law. We inherit a depraved nature, but it is not for this that God holds us responsible. We are responsible not for what we have inherited, but for what we have done, and therefore it is not by our depraved nature but by our actions we shall be judged.
2. Guilt exposes to the retributive justice of God. There is always the feeling that sin deserves punishment at the hands of God. We know indeed from Scripture that it does so. Nothing could be plainer or more solemn than its statements, than the sinner is even now under the curse of the law which he has broken, and that hereafter he will come under a righteous retribution. But it is not to Scripture that I would now appeal. A man who has violated the laws of his country knows that he deserves to suffer their penalties. It is right, he says, I have sinned, and must bear the punishment. So the sinner against God feels that he deserves to be condemned, and that if God's justice were to deal with him he could not escape. From this indissoluble connection between sin and punishment arises our need of mercy. Therefore it is, that the prayer of the publican is the universal prayer of poor, sinful, and perishing humanity. Therefore it is, that in the presence of God's holiness, or confronted with His law, or in the near prospect of an eternal world, we shrink back appalled at the consciousness of our guilt.
II. WHETHER IT IS POSSIBLE TO OBTAIN MERCY? This is a question of grave importance; easily answered with the Bible in our hands, but, apart from it, filling us with strange perplexity.
1. Without a Divine revelation, we do not know that God is merciful at all. Granting that there is much to excite our hopes, there is as much to awaken our fears. We are ready to say, "God is good — His tender mercies are over all." But when the pestilence is abroad in the city, and the tempest in the field — when the rivers overflow their banks, and the mildew blights the precious fruits of the earth — when the crimson tide of war rolls through a land — when men's faces are black with famine — when the sea is strewn with wrecks — then we are filled with alarm, and say, "When I consider, I am afraid of Him." Think again: What are the conceptions which have been formed of God by those who are destitute of revelation? One of the best and wisest of the heathen doubted whether it was possible for "God to forgive sin." The sceptre of the Supreme God was a thunder-bolt — He was cruel, harsh and vindictive Again: When we reflect on the nature of moral government, we perceive serious difficulties in the way of the exercise of mercy. Certainly this is not the end of government. The great object for which it exists is the administration of justice; that it may "render to every man according to his works." If mercy, not justice, be its ruling principle, it is not easy to understand why it should exist at all. The highest praise that can be given to an earthly ruler is, that he is "the terror of evil-doers and the praise of them that do well." Now apply this to the Divine government. Why does it exist? — whence its language and its laws? Is it not for the maintenance of order? — for the well-being of the creatures whom God has made? And, as far as we have an opportunity of observing, are not the laws of this government strictly carried out — in every case, sooner or later, exacting penalties from the disobedient? If you violate a physical law, there is no mercy for you.
2. But when we turn to the Scriptures, the subject is presented before us in a different light.
(1) We learn, in the first place, that God is merciful in Himself.
(2) We learn that this mercy is displayed to sinners through the atonement of Christ.
III. WHY IS IT THAT AT THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WE SHALL ESPECIALLY REQUIRE THE EXERCISE OF MERCY? It is the day that will terminate this world's history. Whenever it dawns, time will cease, the world will be burnt up, the heavens will pass away, there will be "no more sea." Wonderful was the day of creation, when God called things that were not as though they were, and His Spirit moved over the chaos, and light dawned, and the earth appeared. But more wonderful still will be that day when the purpose for which the world has been created shall have been accomplished, and, like a faded vesture, it shall be folded up. Then the world's history will end — its sad tragedies of sorrow, its scenes of suffering; and its works of nature, its wonders of art, the monuments of God's power, the trophies of man's skill, shall pass away.
1. Its absolute certainty.
2. Its scrutiny will be so strict. God will set our iniquities before Him — our secret sins in the light of His countenance. And that which we had forgotten shall be remembered; that which appeared to us but trivial shall assume a magnitude which will fill us with profound alarm; that which we supposed none had witnessed shall be proclaimed.
3. The award will be just and final.
4. It will come unexpectedly. All the representations given of the judgment-day describe it as a sudden and unlooked-for event. But what shall we say of the worldly, the ungodly, the profane? What sudden, destruction will overtake them! Where Pompeii was disinterred, there was discovered in the buried city the remains of those who still preserved the very attitude in which death had overtaken them. There was a skeleton before a mirror, another behind a counter; in the theatre, in the forum, in the temples, at a banquet, in every attitude and position they were found. It was the work of a moment, the burning lava fell, and they died. You are looking forward to many years of life, but the Judge may even now be standing at the door. Who then will find mercy? Those who have sought it and found it now — those who have confessed and forsaken sin — those who humbly rest on the merits of the Saviour's sacrifice.
(H. J. Gamble.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.