VI. The Mercy of God

Position 1.—The Deity is, throughout the Scriptures, represented as infinitely gracious and merciful (Exod. 34:6; Nehem. 9:17; Psalm 103:8; 1 Peter 1:3). When we call the Divine mercy infinite, we do not mean that it is, in a way of grace, extended to all men without exception (and supposing it was, even then it would be very improperly denominated infinite on that account, since the objects of it, though all men taken together, would not amount to a multitude strictly and properly infinite), but that His mercy towards His own elect, as it knew no beginning, so is it infinite in duration, and shall know neither period nor intermission.

Position 2.—Mercy is not in the Deity, as it is in us, a passion or affection, everything of that kind being incompatible with the purity, perfection, independency and unchangeableness of His nature; but when this attribute is predicated of Him, it only notes His free and eternal will or purpose of making some of the fallen race happy by delivering them from the guilt and dominion of sin, and communicating Himself to them in a way consistent with His own inviolable justice, truth and holiness. This seems to be the proper definition of mercy as it relates to the spiritual and eternal good of those who are its objects.

Position 3.—But it should be observed that the mercy of God, taken in its more large and indefinite sense, may be considered (1) as general and (2) as special. His general mercy is no other than what we commonly call His bounty, by which He is, more or less, providentially good to all mankind, both elect and non-elect (Matt. 5:45; Luke 6:35; Acts 14:17, 17:25,28). By His special mercy He, as Lord of all, hath, in a spiritual sense, compassion on as many of the fallen race as are the objects of His free and eternal favour, the effects of which special mercy are the redemption and justification of their persons through the satisfaction of Christ, the effectual vocation, regeneration and sanctification of them by His Spirit, the infallible and final preservation of them in a state of grace on earth, and their everlasting glorification in heaven.

Position 4.—There is no contradiction, whether real or seeming, between these two assertions: (1) that the blessings of grace and glory are peculiar to those whom God hath, in His decree of predestination, set apart for Himself, and (2) that the Gospel declaration runs, that whosoever willeth may take of the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17). Since, in the first place, none can will, or unfeignedly and spiritually desire, a part in these privileges but those whom God previously makes willing and desirous; and, secondly, that He gives this will to, and excites this desire in, none but His own elect.

Position 5.—Since ungodly men, who are totally and finally destitute of Divine grace, cannot know what this mercy is, nor form any proper apprehensions of it, much less by faith embrace and rely upon it for themselves, and since daily experience, as well as the Scriptures of truth, teaches us that God doth not open the eyes of the reprobate as He doth the eyes of His elect, nor savingly enlighten their understandings, it evidently follows that His mercy was never, from the very first, designed for them, neither will it be applied to them; but, both in designation and application, is proper and peculiar to those only who are predestinated to life, as it is written, “the election hath obtained, and the rest were blinded” (Rom 11:7).

Position 6.—The whole work of salvation, together with everything that is in order to it or stands in connection with it, is sometimes, in Scripture, comprised under the single term mercy, to show that mere love and absolute grace were the grand cause why the elect are saved, and that all merit, worthiness and good qualifications of theirs were entirely excluded from having any influence on the Divine will why they should be chosen, redeemed and glorified above others. When it is said, “He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy” (Rom. 9), it is as much as if the apostle had said, “God elected, ransomed, justified, regenerates, sanctifies and glorifies whom He pleases,” every one of these great privileges being briefly summed up and virtually included in that comprehensive phrase, “He hath mercy.”

Position 7.—It follows that, whatever favour is bestowed on us, whatever good thing is in us or wrought by us, whether in will, word or deed, and whatever blessings else we receive from God, from election quite home to glorification, all proceed, merely and entirely, from the good pleasure of His will and His mercy towards us in Christ Jesus. To Him therefore the praise is due, who putteth the difference between man and man by having compassion on some and not on others.



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