MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA TREATISE I. GOD. 26. THE MERCY OF GOD.
CORNELISZ VAN OOSTSANEN, Jacob
1519MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA
TREATISE I. GOD.
26. THE MERCY OF GOD.
I. God's action in doing good to His creatures has different aspects and different names. Considering simply the good done we attribute it to God's goodness ; when the good is due to us we thank God's justice; thinking of its abundance and gratuitousness we ascribe it to liberality : and we praise His mercy when He sympathizes with our miseries, and relieves them or saves us from them. God gives great prominence to this perfection. The Psalmist says, " The Lord is gracious and merciful, patient and plenteous in mercy. The Lord is sweet to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works " (Ps. cxliv. 8, 9). And the Apostle : " Mercy exalteth itself above judgment " (James ii- 13). God's mercy, though not more infinite than His other perfections, commends itself more to our appreciation, because of the contrast between our miseries and the state to which He raises us. From our point of view God's mercy seems to be more valuable than His power or His wisdom, and to have a wider range and more wonderful effects than His justice or His sanctity. We may see mercy in all God's works. His creatures are all in a state of misery before Him ; and when He calls us from the depths of nothingness, and raises us to a state superior to nature, and holds out Paradise as a place of deliverance from all evils, this is all the work of mercy. Thank God for His mercies, and be merciful in your own sphere.
II. The principal and only real misery is sin, with its consequences. The permission of sin has thus created the opportunity for the exercise of the divine mercy ; for its chief manifestation is towards sinners. It has several forms. 1. It is gentleness, in that God does not break forth into anger and crush the sinner with His vengeance. 2. It is patience. We prolong our iniquities, refuse to repent, or make our repentance a mockery; and God holds back the consequences of our sins until we tire of them and return to Him. 3. It is benignity, for God is always ready to receive us back, and even admit us after all our sins to the highest favour in His kingdom. 4. It is clemency ; that is, that even if a sinner persists in his obstinacy to the end, the punishment he incurs is always, and in hell even, less than his deserts. Hence the prophet said : " When Thou art angry Thou wilt remember mercy " (Hab. iii. 2) ; and St. John in the Apocalypse speaks of the anger and judgment of God as being that of the Lamb. Truly " it is the mercy of the Lord that we are not consumed " (Lam. iii. 22). What immense reason you have for being grateful to God for His repeated and unwearying mercy !
III. If God does so much for obstinate sinners, much more will He do for those who repent. He pours forth His mercy on those who reject and despise it ; but as for those who implore it and open their hearts for it, He " will show the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He hath prepared unto glory" (Rom. ix. 23). This mercy be comes adoption of the sinner as heir of the kingdom of heaven ; special protection, against the temptations of hell and relapse into sin ; affability, by which God delights to converse with the children of men (Prov. viii. 31) ; considerateness, which punishes venial sin with troubles in this life, so as to spare the more grievous pains of purgatory ; sweetness, in the interior peace and joy that God gives ; munificence, in the abundance of present and future blessings. Do not be downcast on account of your miseries your weakness, your repeated failures. They are the very raison d etre of God's mercies. They are rather ground for confidence than for despondency, provided you try to serve God and do not sin in presumption on His mercy. Your claim for mercy and salvation rests rather on your sins than on your justice.
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA BY THE RIGHT REV. JAMES BELLORD, D.D.