The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion.
actively engaged in securing the interests of the oppressed. That goes into the word used, "executeth." We might think of justice and judgment as the pillars of God's throne, and yet conceive of him as only announcing his just decisions; leaving to others the work of carrying them out. To put it in a formal way, the legislative rights of God may be recognized, but the executive rights of God may be denied. We may fully hold both truths of fact. God does pronounce his own judgments; God does execute his own sentences. The figure for God is especially effective in Eastern countries, where justice is so often perverted, and the oppressed have no chance if they happen to be poor. Illustrate by our Lord's parable of the unjust judge and the importunate widow. All the oppressed and poor may be absolutely sure that Jehovah will considerately hear their cases, deal with perfect uprightness in relation to their trouble, and carry out his decisions, whatever they may involve.
I. THE LORD OF THE OPPRESSED HEEDS THE OPPRESSED. The poor often find it nearly impossible to get their cases brought before the magistrates, judges, or kings of earth. It is the righteousness of God that he is right towards every one; all may seek, and none ever seeks in vain. There is absolute freedom given to every man and woman under the sun to tell out the trouble to the Lord. And we may have absolute faith that no tale of human need was ever poured out before God, and disregarded by him. It is a beginning of hope, that the Lord surely heeds us.
II. THE LORD OF THE OPPRESSED ACTS FOR THE OPPRESSED. God's decisions never merely lie on a statute book, like many acts of earthly courts and parliaments. If God decides a thing, it has to be carried out; nay, he himself presides over the carrying it out. We are to have confidence in the Divine energy and activity. "Commit thy way unto the Lord, and he will bring it to pass." How, when, where, he will execute his judgments, we may not anticipate; it is enough for an oppressed soul to know that God is acting for him. "He will bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noon day."
III. THE LORD OF THE OPPRESSED ACTS UPON THE OPPRESSORS. It is not merely that the oppressed are delivered or defended; it is that those who have injured them feel the weight of Divine indignation. Judgment is in one sense for the oppressed, and in another sense for the oppressors. - R.T.
The Lord is merciful and gracious.I. DEFINE THE IDEA OF MERCY. It is the exercise of a Divine benevolence in respect to a guilty being, and such an exercise, that if it had been wholly wanting, no just judgment could ever have impeached the benevolence of God. Mercy is the intervention of gratuitous goodness. It is benevolence, bending in pity and compassion over the very creature, whose guiltiness has deserved the everlasting abandonment of Heaven.
II. GUARD AGAINST AN ERROR IN RELATION TO IT. The error we wish you to avoid consists precisely in the difference there is between the notions of Divine Mercy entertained by an intelligent and humble Christian, and those entertained by unconverted sinners at ease in their sins. When we speak of the pre-eminence of Divine Mercy, we are speaking of that thing which we, as Christians, feel to be of all things most calculated to make us fear and hate sin. We see it does not render the Deity indifferent to His laws; it does not infringe upon His justice, or make Him less terrible, but more terrible, to all who will indulge themselves in sin. But still the Divine Mercy is pre-eminent. By this attribute God peculiarly shows Himself. If you did not pervert the Divine Mercy, you would feel it as an infinite attraction; you would find its solace reaching the deepest woes that ever trouble your agonized spirit.
III. EXPLAIN HOW IT COMES TO PASS THAT THE MERCY OF GOD, WHICH OUGHT TO AFFECT OUR HEARTS SO MUCH, REALLY DOES AFFECT THEM, WHILE UNCONVERTED, SO LITTLE. The believer walks with God and lives in Christ. He sees God in all things, and all things in God. The influence, and a sweet and sensible influence of the perfections of God, all His perfections, comes over the renewed heart. An unregenerated heart fails in this. And it fails in a very remarkable manner to be affected by the Divine mercy. There are several things which conspire together to cause this.
1. The first is found in the nature of mercy itself. Sin in the human heart tends always and uniformly (when the heart is unaffected by the Divine Spirit) to put God out of mind.
2. The second cause is found in the fact that sin, in the human heart, has made its most perfect triumph over those very sensibilities which mercy aims to affect.
3. A third reason is found in the sufferings that fill the world; i.e. the ideas of irreligious people about these miseries give them a wrong idea of the Mercy of God. Let us not be materialists, to weigh nothing but dust and ashes, and the earthly felicity that springs out of them. Let us think as immortals — feel, hope, and fear, as immortals. Let us go out in our contemplations, and plant our feet on the borders of that unbounded field, as wide as eternity, and, by the mercy of God, as blissful as heaven; and then we shall not be tempted to think God's mercy little and unworthy to be trusted, though He should give us but few joys here. He intends to give us but few. He means to show us that He cares very little about the dying bliss of this dying world. And if we understand His Word rightly, we shall understand that He mentions His earthly mercies to us, not on account of any value He puts upon them, but only as tokens and attractions to that infinite mercy which would save, eternally save, our sinful and immortal souls.
IV. ENDEAVOUR TO GAIN SOME JUST IDEAS OF THE MERCY OF GOD.
1. Mercy is that attribute in which the Deity peculiarly delights. God loves to forgive sinners, to adopt them into His family, and to cheer them with His promises.
2. The great purpose of the Divine revelation is to disclose to us the mercy of God, and lead us to accept it. God has trusted His world to demonstrate His other attributes, but not to demonstrate His mercy. His mountains and His seas — His winds, His lightnings, and His thunders — His worlds wheeling in infinite space around His throne — suns, stars, and comets in their order — the existence and nature of this material universe, God has trusted to unfold to us His wisdom, His omnipotence, His justice. But the mercy of God has such a pre-eminence that He Himself must speak it out to us from His hiding-place in eternity!
3. Divine mercy is of such pre-eminence, that its method of operation is entirely singular, and unlike anything else which God Almighty does. It operates by the incarnation, life, and death of the eternal Son of God.
4. The promises of mercy in the Gospel are absolutely unlimited by human guilt. There is no crime so odious, no circumstances of sinning amidst light and warnings, and the strivings of the resisted Spirit, so aggravating as not to be pardonable, when the sinner sincerely turns to Jesus Christ. This is wonderful! Human reason could never have conjectured this. Human sentiments, without grace, never have anything like it.
5. The extent of the sinner's guilt makes no difference about the readiness of His forgiveness — that the mercy of God will forgive him if he repents at any stage of his sin on this side of hell, with precisely the same facility and readiness! This is pre-eminence in mercy. It surpasses all the extent of human reason, human expectations, human sentiments and hopes. It not only reaches the greatest offences, but the greatest as readily as the least.
(I. S. Spencer, D. D.)
I. ITS BENEFICENCE. It is not an inert compassion, but communicative and bounteous. It flows forth a spontaneous stream from an infinite fountain. The air is not more free, nor the light more diffusive and impartial.
II. ITS FORBEARANCE. "The Lord is slow to anger." His "charity suffereth long and is kind"; and, though its patience is often abused by impenitence, it "is not easily provoked." He delays punishment that He may lead to repentance; men pervert the delay into an occasion and encouragement of crime; and when He can justly delay no longer, He hurls His thunder with an averted face and a backward aim. He always warns before He smites; generally suspends the judgment long after the warning; then executes it gradually and by slow degrees, with frequent intervals of kindest indulgence, and arguments of unwearying love.
III. ITS ABUNDANCE. "The Lord is plenteous in mercy." Wonderful words! "Mercy" — what music in those two syllables! There is no term of richer import in any language. It is sweeter than sympathy, more tender than charity, and lies deeper than the fountain of tears. The inspired writers adopt a variety of expedients to heighten its signification. Sometimes they connect an epithet with it, and we read of His "great mercy," "tender mercy," "loving mercy," "abundant mercy," "everlasting mercy." Sometimes they couple another term with it, and we have "mercy and grace," "mercy and truth," "mercy and goodness," "mercy and judgment," "mercy and compassion." Sometimes they employ the plural form "mercies" — to indicate the frequency, the variety, the endless modifications and adaptations, of this most engaging trait of the Divine character. Then the plural is intensified in the phrase "manifold mercies," giving the idea of mercies wrapped up in mercies, a thousand contained in one. At last enumeration is outdone in "the multitude of His mercies" mercies numberless, thronging upon mercies unnumbered — a host to which the stars of heaven multiplied by all their beams of light could scarcely furnish a competent arithmetic. The apostle calls Jehovah "the God and Father of all mercies," because He rejoiceth in His mercies as a father in his children; and tells us that "He is rich in mercy to all that call upon Him," because no monarch ever dispensed his bounty so freely; and, though infinite in capacity, "full of mercy" — full as the ocean is of water, as the atmosphere of light.
(J. Cross, D.D.)
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