THE MERCIFUL: makarioi hoi
(Mt 6:14,15; 18:33, 34, 35; 2Samuel
22:26; Job 31:16-22; Psalms 18:25; 37:26; Psalms 41:1, 2, 3, 4; 112:4,9;
Proverbs 11:17; 14:21; 19:17; Isaiah 57:1; 58:6-12; Daniel 4:27; Micah
6:8; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:35; Ephesians 4:32; 5:1; Colossians 3:12; James
THE SERMON ON THE
Pastor Phil Newton offers a
well worded synopsis regarding the significance and purpose of the
Beatitudes writing that...
The Beatitudes were not given as
commands but as realities for those who are part of Christ’s kingdom. We
might call them Kingdom-Characteristics or Kingdom-Evidences. They
describe the believer, and by the same token, they are effective
instruments to root out unbelief in the heart and expose an unregenerate
condition. They do reflect attitudes of the heart, but they also explain
the way believers will relate not only to God but also to those about
them. Without attempting to slice them too neatly, it does appear that
the first four Beatitudes focus primarily toward the believer’s
relationship with God, while the latter four aim primarily toward
others. We must take care at boxing them too tightly, though, for the
all Beatitudes have to do with kingdom life, and thus each of them will
impact relationships Godward and manward. (Matthew 5:7 The
Blessing of Mercy).
Keep the historical
mind as you study this "be attitude". The religious leadership in Jesus’
day tended toward being judgmental and merciless ("mercy less") because
of their demand for rigorous observance of the law. The Scribes and
Pharisees did not receive God’s mercy because they had become so
self-satisfied with their own religious attainments that they did not
sense their dangerous condition of total spiritual bankruptcy and their
desperate need for God's rich mercy.
Charles Simeon writes
THERE can be no doubt but that every
Minister should set forth the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel with
frequency and firmness. If he lay not the foundation well, he can never
hope to have his labours crowned with success. On the other hand, it
becomes him very earnestly to inculcate the necessity of a Christian
temper: and, if he be not attentive to this, he must expect, that,
whilst his people are filled with head-knowledge, they will dishonour
their profession both by their spirit and conduct. Our blessed Lord,
throughout this whole discourse, shews us the importance of cultivating
holy and heavenly dispositions: and, at the same time that he corrects
the false notions which were entertained respecting the nature of his
kingdom, declares unequivocally, that it is the practical Christian, and
he only, that is truly blessed.
5:7 The Reward for Mercifulness - Goto Page 60)
means spiritually prosperous, independent of one's circumstances because it is a
state bestowed by God and not a feeling felt. Fortunate, approved of
God, happy independent of happenings.
eleos = mercy)
for in depth study of
eleos) refers to one who
is actively compassionate or one who is benevolently merciful involving
thought and action. It reflects being concerned about people in
their need. One might say they are "mercy full"! The idea is that
they possess a compassionate heart leading one to acts of mercy, the
purpose of which is to relieve the suffering and misery of the object of
that compassion. It sometimes meant giving money to a needy
person. As referring to believers eleemon refers not merely to those who express acts of
mercifulness, but who have this attribute as a result of the indwelling
Spirit of Christ.
Eleemon is used only here and in
Hebrews 2:17-note (but used 20 times in the
Septuagint or LXX,
mostly referring to the compassion of God, the uses in Proverbs
referring to men: Ex 22:27, 34:6, 2Chr 30:9, Neh 9:17, 31, Ps 88:15,
103:8, 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:8; Pr 11:17; 19:11; 20:6; 28:22;
Jer 3:12; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2)
“Blessed are the mercy full” (those "full" of mercy)
Believers deserve hell but because of God's mercy and forgiveness
The basic idea of eleemon is "to give help to
the wretched, to relieve the miserable." Here the essential thought is
that mercy gives attention to those in misery. From this we make the
important distinction between mercy and grace. Grace is shown to the
undeserving; mercy is compassion to the miserable. Thus the synonym for
mercy is compassion
Mercy is not simply feeling compassion but exists when something is done
to alleviate distress. This is nicely illustrated in the Old Testament
by the "mercy seat" in the holy of holies. This was the place
where the Lord God accepted the propitiatory (satisfactory) sacrifice to
atone for the nation’s sins, once each year on the "Day of Atonement"
(see Lev 16:2,13, 14, 15). Here at the mercy seat God was moved with
pity and compassion for the sinful people, and took action to reconcile
them to himself through accepting the blood of a goat in their stead.
(See also notes on
God's Attribute of Mercy).
In Lamentations (see Lam 3:19, 20,
21, 22, 23
"His compassions [mercies] never fail. They are new every morning") we
see the Lord’s mercies being new each morning. And who does He
demonstrate such bountiful mercies to? Toward His undeserving,
rebellious, stiff necked chosen people! This observation helps us to
understand the character of the mercy Jesus is calling for in those who
claim to be citizens of His Kingdom. It is an "impossible" mercy (for
the natural man) and is only "Him-possible" (supernatural in the Spirit
controlled regenerate man or woman).
In short, being merciful is a characteristic
that demands of us a disposition of heart and life that is contrary to
human nature. Indeed a merciful heart is a characteristic Jesus
says of a citizen of the Kingdom, one who has received a supernatural
"heart transplant" (Ezekiel 36:25, 26, 27, 2Co 5:17 - notice
how Ezek 36:27 enables one to be mercy filled). This Beatitude then
begs the question from all who would profess Christ as Savior - Does the
demonstration or lack of demonstration of mercy affirm us or condemn us
Merciful means “full of mercy.” Just as a graceful person is one full of
grace, the merciful person is the one who is full of the fountain of
mercy, who is full of God. Mercy moves the merciful to bestow mercy. The merciful man is the man who is full of
love, and who loves with the love of God. He is the man in whose life
the cross has done a transforming work to conform him to Jesus Christ;
that which is not a natural characteristic of his life becomes the
character and pattern of his life. But just as the Lord tells his people
to be holy because he is holy, he also calls for his people to reflect
his mercy. Sometime we want to hide from the Bible’s description of
Christians as merciful. It is a characteristic that demands of us a
disposition of heart and life that is contrary to human nature.
Ray Pritchard explains that mercy includes three elements...
1. ”I see the need”—that’s recognition.
2. “I am moved by the need”—that’s motivation.
3. “I move to meet the need”—that’s action.
Having a feeling of sorrow
over someone's bad situation I now want to try to do something about it.
Mercy is more than a feeling, but not less than that. Mercy begins with
simple recognition that someone is hurting around you. But mere seeing
or feeling isn’t mercy. Mercy moves from feeling to action. It is active
compassion for those in need.
"The merciful are those who are conscious that they are
themselves the unworthy recipients of God’s mercy, and that but for the
grace of God they would be not only sinners, but condemned sinners."
William Barclay noted the Hebrew word (hesed) for "merciful" has the
"the ability to get right inside the other person's skin until
we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel
things with his feelings."
Leon Morris observes
"These are people who show by their habitual
merciful deeds that they have responded to God's love and are living by
His grace. They will receive mercy on the last day."
Nothing proves that we have been forgiven (received God's mercy) better
than our own readiness to forgive (dispense God's mercy)!
The point is that Jesus is referring to those who as their lifestyle
demonstrate mercy. Their life is not one of an occasional show of mercy
but a continually inclination to show mercy. (Sermon
on Matthew 5:7)
Mercy is love in action.
And still wherever mercy shares
Her bread with sorrow, want and sin
And love the beggar’s feast prepares,
The Uninvited Guest comes in.
Unheard, because our ears are dull,
Unseen, because our eyes are dim,
He walks our earth, the Wonderful,
And all good deeds are done to Him.
The Uninvited Guest is Jesus
Mercy serves as a
constant reminder that we are living under God’s mercy, as spiritual
paupers (Mt 5:3) daily in need of His great mercy, and only able to call
ourselves “Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven” because the King has
emptied Himself of His royal prerogatives and in mercy has stooped to
meet our need through the provision of His life, death, resurrection and
sending of His Spirit. Beloved, mercy known will result in mercy shown.
Ask God to show you who and how you can be merciful to this day, this
week, this year...He will be faithful to show you...and then you won't
miss the blessing of basking in His overflow of mercy in your life...for
the King's commanded contains His promise...
"Give, and it will be given to you;
good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will
pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured
to you in return." (Luke 6:38, cf Deut 15:10, Proverbs 28:27 [remember
giving will not always be money but sometimes an even more valuable
commodity, your time, as you demonstrate mercy received to one who is
needy], Eccl 11:1, 2, Galatians 6:7) (Download
the nifty, easy to load, simple to
use Bible Verse pop up
tool that will make it easy to read every cross reference in this study
quickly, in context and in the Version you prefer but only KJV is
FOR THEY SHALL RECEIVE MERCY:
hoti autoi eleethesontai. (3PFPI):
(Hosea 1:6; 2:1,23; Romans
11:30; 1Corinthians 7:25; 2Corinthians 4:1; 1Timothy 1:13,16; 2Timothy
1:16, 17, 18; Hebrews 4:16; 6:10; James 2:13; 1Peter 2:10)
As you hope for mercy, show mercy.
For - Always pause and
ponder this instructive
term of explanation.
They forgive, and they are
forgiven. They judge charitably, and they shall not be condemned. They
help the needy, and they shall be helped in their need. What we are to
others, God will be to us. Some have to labour hard with their
niggardliness in order to be kind; but the blessing lies not only in
doing a merciful act, but in being merciful in disposition.
Followers of Jesus must be men of mercy; for they have found mercy, and
mercy has found them. As we look for "mercy of the Lord in that day ",
we must show mercy in this day. (The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Popular
Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew)
Receive mercy (1653)
eleos [word study]) means “to feel
sympathy with the misery of another, especially such sympathy which
manifests itself in action, less frequently in word.” Describes the
general sense of one who has compassion or person on someone in need.
It indicates being moved to pity
and compassion by tragedy and includes the fear that this could happen
to me. To see someone in dire need (including one who may not deserve
the misfortune), to have compassion on them, and to give help to remove
eleeo means to show mercy and so to be greatly concerned for
someone in need and/or to help someone because of
Mt 5:7 uses eleeo in the
means to be shown mercy, with the accompanying senses of compassion or pity.
It conveys the active desire to remove the misery of the person who is
NIDNTT writes of the root
word eleos that in classical Greek...
It is “the emotion roused by contact
with an affliction which comes undeservedly on someone else” (R.
Bultmann, TDNT II 477), viz. compassion, pity, mercy. These feelings are
the reverse of envy at another’s good fortune. There is also an element
of fear that one might have to suffer in the same way. Aristotle in his
Poetics stated that tragedy aroused pity and terror and these caused
katharsis, purging. From Plutarch onwards we find the expressions eleon
echo, to find mercy, and kat' eleon, out of compassion. eleos was used
as a technical term for the end of the speech for the defence, in which
the accused tried to awaken the compassion of the judges.
Vincent writes that
to succor or to show compassion...The (root) word (eleos) emphasizes the
misery with which grace deals; hence, peculiarly the sense of human
wretchedness coupled with the impulse to relieve it, which issues in
gracious ministry. Bengel remarks, “Grace takes away the fault, mercy
Vine writes that eleeo
signifies, in general, "to feel
sympathy with the misery of another," and especially sympathy manifested
in act, (a) in the Active Voice, "to have pity or mercy on, to show
mercy" to, e.g., Matt. 9:27; Matt. 15:22; Matt. 17:15; Matt. 18:33;
Matt. 20:30, 31 (three times in Mark, four in Luke); Rom. 9:15, 16, 18;
Rom. 11:32; Rom. 12:8; Phil. 2:27; Jude 1:22, 23; (b) in the Passive
Voice, "to have pity or mercy shown one, to obtain mercy," Matt. 5:7;
Rom. 11:30, 31; 1Cor. 7:25; 2Cor. 4:1; 1Tim. 1:13, 16; 1Pet. 2:10.
Eleeo - 29x in 26v in NAS -
Matt 5:7; 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 18:33; 20:30, 31; Mark 5:19; 10:47, 48;
Luke 16:24; 17:13; 18:38, 39; Ro 9:15-note,
1Cor 7:25; 2 Cor 4:1; Phil 2:27-note;
1Ti 1:13, 16; 1Pe 2:10-note.
The NAS renders eleeo as - found mercy(1), had mercy(4),
has mercy(2), have mercy(15), mercy(1), receive mercy(1), received
mercy(3), show mercy(1), shown mercy(3), shows mercy(1).
It is notable that 11/29 uses are
which is a command calling for specific, definitive, immediate (even
urgent) attention (obedience) (Matt 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:30, 31; Mark
10:47, 47; Luke 16:24; 17:13; 18:38, 39)
Eleeo - 81x in the
- Gen 33:5, 11; 43:29; Ex 23:3; 33:19; Num 6:25; Deut 7:2; 13:17;
28:50; 30:3; 2Sa 12:22; 2Kgs 13:23; 2Chr 36:17; Job 19:21; 24:21;
27:15; 41:12; Ps 6:2; 9:13; 25:16; 26:11; 27:7; 30:10; 31:9; 41:4, 10;
51:1; 56:1; 57:1; 86:3, 16; 119:29, 58, 132; 123:3; Prov 12:13; 14:21;
17:5; 19:17; 21:10; 22:9; Isa 9:17, 19; 12:1; 13:18; 14:1; 27:11;
30:18f; 33:2; 44:23; 49:10, 13, 15; 52:8f; 54:7f; 55:7; 59:2; Jer 6:23;
7:16; 12:15; 30:18; 31:20; 42:12; 50:42; Lam 4:16; Ezek 5:11; 7:4, 9;
8:18; 9:5, 10; 24:14; 39:25; Hos 1:6f; 2:1, 4, 23; 14:3; Amos 5:15; Zech
Paul repeatedly uses eleeo
to describe the mercy of God...
30 For just as you once were
disobedient to God, but now have been shown
mercy because of their disobedience,
31 so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the
mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
32 For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might
show mercy to all. (See Ro 11:30-note,
And notice Paul's reaction to this "concentration" of God's mercy (Ro
MacArthur has an
interesting insight noting that...
Mercy is integral to God’s redemptive
work for man. From the time of the Fall, man has had no way back to God
except through His
merciful grace. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the New
Testament and the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) various forms of the
verb eleeo (to have mercy) are used some five hundred times.
J: Matthew 1-7 Chicago: Moody Press
Matthew's arrangement that the first four beatitudes express our total
dependence upon God and the next three are the outworking in everyday
life of that dependence upon Him.
In his note on the use of eleeo
in Romans 12:8 Dr John MacArthur notes that this verb...
carries the joint idea of actively
demonstrating sympathy for someone else and of having the necessary
resources to successfully comfort and strengthen that person.
The gifted Christian who shows mercy
is divinely endowed with special sensitivity to suffering and sorrow,
with the ability to notice misery and distress that may go unnoticed by
others, and with the desire and means to help alleviate such
afflictions. This gift involves much more than sympathetic feeling. It
is feeling put into action. The Christian with this gift always finds a
way to express his feelings of concern in practical help. He shows his
mercy by what he says to and what he does for the one in need.
The believer who shows mercy may
exercise his gift in hospital visitation, jail ministry, or in service
to the homeless, the poor, the handicapped, the suffering, and the
sorrowing. This gift is closely related to that of exhortation, and it
is not uncommon for believers to have a measure of both.
J: Romans 9-16. Chicago: Moody Press
This beatitude is similar to Psalm 18:25
With the kind and merciful You will show Yourself kind and merciful,
with an upright man You will show Yourself upright, (Amplified)
Spurgeon writes: With the
merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt
shew thyself upright. Every man shall have his meat weighed in his own
scales, his corn meted in his own bushel, and his land measured with his
own rod. No rule can be more fair, to ungodly men more terrible, or to
the generous man more honourable. How would men throw away their light
weights, and break their short yards, if they could but believe that
they themselves are sure to be in the end the losers by their knavish
tricks! Note that even the merciful need mercy; no amount of generosity
to the poor, or forgiveness to enemies, can set us beyond the need of
mercy. Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Stott notes that this beatitude, too, is tied to the context.
"It is `the meek' who are also `the merciful'. For to be meek is to
acknowledge to others that we are sinners; to be merciful is to have
compassion on others, for they are sinners too" (Stott, p. 48,
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount).
Holman New Testament Commentary
"Kingdom servants must reflect in their own hearts the heart of the
King. That they are part of the Kingdom implies that they are objects of
mercy. They are "others-oriented." What we have received in such
abundance, we must dispense abundantly. (Holman
New Testament Commentary: Matthew)
Barnes emphasizes that...
Nowhere do we imitate God more than in showing mercy. In nothing does
God more delight than in the exercise of mercy, Exodus 34:6; Ezekiel
33:11, 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9. To us, guilty sinners; to us,
wretched, dying, and exposed to eternal woe, he has shown his mercy by
giving his Son to die for us; by expressing his willingness to pardon
and save us; and by sending his Spirit to renew and sanctify the heart.
Each day of our life, each hour, and each moment, we partake of his
undeserved mercy. All the blessings we enjoy are proofs of his mercy. If
we also show mercy to the poor, the wretched, the guilty, it shows that
we are like God; we have his spirit, and shall not lose our reward. And
we have abundant opportunity to do it. Our world is full of guilt and
woe, which we may help to relieve; and every day of our lives we have
opportunity by helping the poor and wretched, and by forgiving those who
injure us, to show that we are like God. (Matthew 5.)
The stress is on the feelings of pity showing itself in action, and not
just existing in thought only. Mercy in the abstract is absolutely
meaningless to Jesus. Compassion in action.
Grace is getting
what we do not deserve.
Justice is getting what we do deserve.
Mercy is not getting what we do deserve.
Distinguish grace from mercy...
God’s solution to man’s sin
God’s solution to man’s misery
Covers the sin
Removes the pain
Gives us what we do not deserve
Does not give us what we do
Grace is that unearned favor
which saves us. .
Mercy is that undeserved favor
which forgives us.
Deals with the cause of sin
Deals with the symptoms of sin
Offers pardon for the crime
Offers relief from the
Cures or heals the "disease"
Eliminates the pain of the
Regarding salvation it says
Regarding salvation it says
"I pardon you"
"I pity you"
Grace is the Good
Samaritan's action that brought restoration to the man -
Grace lifts the beaten man upon his own donkey and carries him to
the inn for complete recovery, paying the complete price on the
pitiful man’s behalf. (Lu 10:30-37)
Mercy is the Good Samaritan
stopping to help the Jewish man who had been beaten and stripped
by robbers - Mercy stops and stoops toward one who has nothing to
offer the giver and has never shown favor to the giver. (Lu
Dwight Pentecost explains the rich reward of mercy flowing from a
believer's life, writing that...
"To show mercy because we have received mercy demonstrates the life of
Christ, the work of the Cross in a man’ life, and permits God to open up
the windows of heaven and pour out blessing upon us. A man whose life is
lived by the love of God manifested at the Cross will find his life
flooded by the love of God. God, the source of mercy, has caused His
mercies to flood my life through the cross. His righteousness will
manifest itself through my life in loving, gracious concern. As His
righteousness is perfected in me, His blessings may fall upon me. Mercy
is the manifestation of the righteousness of Christ in the life of the
child of God that opens a life to the blessings of God."
Design for Living: Lessons in Holiness
from the Sermon on the Mount)
mercy is evidence
that we have received mercy
Matthew 5:7 is often
misinterpreted as a formula for how to get along with people - be nice to them and
they in turn will be nice to you. The logic is that the way to receive benefit from people is to
bestow some benefit on them. We all know from our personal experience
that while this may be true some of the time, it is not always true. Clearly, this is not what Jesus is teaching. Neither
is He teaching that by a believer's demonstration of mercy, he or
she earns credits so that one day at the judgment God will show them
mercy because they had earned it. Here is the point in a nutshell -
Showing mercy does not make us believers (it's not the a condition God
demands of us before He lets us in the Kingdom). To the contrary,
showing mercy demonstrates we are believers. This godly (God-like) mercy
Jesus is referring to is not a natural characteristic of
the human heart. Mercy belongs to God and He gives it to His children to
dispense to those in need. In the dispensing process, those individuals
show that they are true believers and also receive the wonderful reward
of more mercy from God. We can't out give His mercy to us. We give. He
And one day future, believers
receive His mercy at the Judgment Seat of Christ (for believers only).
Paul alludes to this "future mercy" in his "prayer" (or "wish") for his
dear friend Onesiphorus...
15 You are aware of the fact that all
who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and
16 The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often
refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains;
17 but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me, and found me--
18 the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that
of the Judgment Seat of Christ)--
and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus. (see notes
2 Timothy 1:15-18)
Clearly Onesiphorus as a believer
is not in need of mercy in the same sense as when he was an unbeliever.
But he, as is true of all believers, will stand before Christ at which
time all his works as a human being on earth will be judged. It is at
this time which Paul is seeking for his dear friend to find mercy and
receive his eternal reward based on his works in the body, whether good
or bad. The same idea is seen in (1Cor 3:10-15) where only those deeds
done in Christ for the glory of God will survive the testing fires and
endure for eternity. May we all find mercy on that awesome day in time
and eternity. Amen.
To reiterate, notice that this beatitude begins and ends with
mercy. Those who are merciful will
receive God’s mercy. And yet Jesus is not saying that God’s mercy
depends on our mercy. Everything in the spiritual life begins and ends
with God. What Jesus is saying is that as God pours out His rich mercies on us, we respond by showing mercy
to others, which causes us to receive even more mercy from God.
If God did not forgive and keep on forgiving, if he did not continue to
pour out his mercy like the “gentle rain from heaven,” we would be
utterly and completely lost.
I receive mercy from God.
I show mercy to others.
I receive more mercy from God. I have more in the end than I had in the
Albert Barnes adds that...
Some think "receive mercy" speaks of a reward in the future...to an
extent these verses speak of mercy given in a tangible way...and Jesus
clearly says such "mercy" will be repaid in the future.The same sentiment is found in Matthew 10:42. Whosoever shall give a cup
of cold water only unto one of these little ones, in the name of a
disciple, shall not lose his reward. See Matthew 25:34-40. It
should be done to glorify God; that is, in obedience to his
commandments, and with a desire that he should be honoured; and feeling
that we are benefiting one of his creatures. Then he will regard it as
done to him, and will reward us. (Matthew 5)
Believers can only demonstrate
mercy because God gives them His mercy. Before we were saved, we were in
great need and God being rich in mercy held back His just and righteous
judgment from us. Paul explained that...
you were dead in your trespasses and
sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this
world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit
that is now working in the sons of disobedience.3 Among them we too all
formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the
flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the
rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great
love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our
transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have
been saved),6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the
heavenly places, in Christ Jesus,7 in order that in the ages to come He
might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in
Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-7)
In his second letter to the
Corinthians Paul wrote...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2Cor 1:3)
Shakespeare was not wrong
when he wrote (Merchant of Venice) that...
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.
Indeed genuine godly mercy always comes down
from on high, having its source in the infinite riches of God's mercy
and raining down on mercy needing men and woman on earth.
John wrote that
"as many as received Him (Jesus),
to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who
believe in His name" (John 1:12)
So now believers are citizens of
the Kingdom of Heaven, and sons of the Most High God (El
Elyon - God Most High) and
Luke explains how as such we are to bear God's "family resemblance" as
God's "mercy dispensers" as it were...
"But love (present
imperative) your enemies,
and do good (present
imperative), and lend
imperative), expecting nothing in return; and your reward will
be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind
to ungrateful and evil men." "Be (present
merciful, just as your Father is merciful.) (Luke 6:35-36)
Warren Wiersbe summed it up in his usual pithy way
”Mercy is a bridge
God built to mankind. Mercy is a bridge we build toward others.”
James warns somewhat sternly that...
judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy;
mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)
There is some disagreement on the
interpretation, some interpreting this as a reference to the Judgment
Seat of Christ when believers might lose rewards because they failed to
show mercy. A greater number of commentators (of the conservative
evangelical tradition) favor the first part of James' statement as a
reference to non-believers, those who have never shown a God-like mercy
because they were not able to, having never been born again. Thus in the
passage these commentaries feel that James gives us a "benchmark" if you
will by which one can evaluate whether their profession is genuine or
more discussion here).
The last section of James 2:13 is less problematic teaching that those
who have received the mercy of God ("Mercy" here in a sense
personified as the believer's "Defense Attorney") will win the case for
their client (the believer) over the opposing "attorney" (Judgment).
Later in Matthew's gospel Jesus
gives a scathing rebuke to the merciless religious leaders declaring...
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe
mint and dill and cummin (they would carefully count out the leaves and
seeds, separating out one for God from each ten counted and boasted in
such self-righteous minutiae), and have neglected the weightier
(rabbinic tradition divided the law into light and heavy categories)
provisions of the law (they were indifferent to basic ethics): justice
and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have
done without neglecting the others" (Mt 23:23, cf Micah 6:8)
John MacArthur has an
interesting commentary on Jesus' declaration noting that...
Almost without exception, false
religions strongly magnify the insignificant and minimize or entirely
ignore the truly spiritual. The worldly is idolized; the spiritual is
disregarded. (MacArthur, J:
Matthew 16-23 Macarthur New Testament
Commentary Chicago: Moody Press)
How is it possible to show mercy (in the form of forgiveness) like God
showed us mercy? The only way is by "Christ in us" (Col 1:27). By the
"Spirit of Christ" the Spirit-controlled person has access to His power
to love (Gal 5:22-23) the offender and demonstrate mercy. Remember, you
become like God who is merciful. God chose to forgive us and show His
mercy to us on the basis of the death of Christ, and now we can choose
to demonstrate that same kind of mercy to those who "sin" against us. It
is not natural but supernatural, the gift and fruit of God's Spirit.
How can believers show mercy? What actions can (and should) we take?
Read Jesus' parable in Matthew
18:21-35, in which Peter asked Jesus if forgiveness "times 7" was
enough. Jesus began by explaining that the Kingdom of Heaven could be
compared to the teaching in this parable, and thus this teaching applied
to Kingdom citizens or believers. The slave was unable to pay the king
an "impossible" debt and sought release and forgiveness which was
granted out of compassion (Mt 18:26, 27, 32). The forgiven slave was in
turn unwilling to forgive a lesser debt, throwing the debtor into
prison. (Mt 18:28, 29, 30) The lord was informed, was angry and handed him to
the torturers asking should he not have had mercy even as he had
received mercy (Mt 18:33, 34).
Boice explains that there
are three main points to this parable...
The parable of the forgiven but
unforgiving debtor makes three points. First, there is a judgment
coming. Jesus did not pass over that teaching. He spoke of forgiveness,
but He also spoke clearly of what happened to the wretched man in His
story. He was cast into prison until he should pay back all he owed.
That judgment hangs over everyone who has not experienced God's
forgiveness through Christ. Second, there is forgiveness. God
does forgive. God sent Jesus to be the basis for that forgiveness.
Third, the only sure proof of a person's having received God's
forgiveness through true faith in Jesus is a transformed heart and a
changed life. How do we get that down into the practical areas of our
lives, so that we actually begin to treat others as we have been
treated? It is by standing before the thrice holy God and thus seeing
ourselves as the vile sinners we are—vile and yet forgiven through the
death of God's own beloved Son. That awareness should humble us so that
we have simply no other option but to be forgiving to others from our
J M: The Parables of Jesus
As new creations in Christ, whose
hearts of stone has been replaced with a heart that beats for God,
believers are benefactors of the rich mercy of the "King" (Eph 2:4-note) and
as such should be motivated to show mercy, including mercy in the form
of forgiveness (cf Col 3:12, 13-note Eph 4:32-note,
Eph 5:1-note, Mt 6:12, 14, 15-note, Ro
In the same way that we are forgiven we will forgive others (cf 1 Pet
The question we must ask is am I bearing a grudge, maintaining bitterness, seeking revenge, or
holding someone as an "emotional hostage"? The call of the King is to forgive
as those who have been greatly forgiven.
Release them from the "sentence of condemnation" or
indebtedness toward you. Now when you do this, does it mean that your emotions
over a hurt are immediately erased and made perfect? Kent Hughes addresses this question writing...
“The fact that
you have forgiven and continue to forgive is a sign of grace, despite
the ambivalences and imperfections of your forgiveness” (Hughes, R. K.
Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom.
2. Have Compassion
Embrace the fallen and
downtrodden. Paul exhorts believers in Galatians 6:1
Brethren, even if a man is caught
(apprehended, taken by surprise, caught red-handed) in any trespass, you
who are spiritual (walking in the Spirit Gal 5:16-note, filled with the
Spirit Ep 5:18, 19, 20-note; Col
evidencing fruit of Spirit Gal 5:22-23-note,
mature in the faith 1Co 2:15; Heb 5:13-14-note),
restore (present imperative
- “mend” or “repair”
mend or make whole or perfect, of setting bones, mending nets) such a
one in a spirit of gentleness (see notes on meekness
each one looking to yourself (Keeping an eye on like a runner on the
goal, emphasizing a continual, diligent attentiveness with the
consciousness that no one is immune from falling into sin 1Co 10:12),
lest you too be tempted.
Rather than speaking about or acting
vindictively toward the sinning brother in this passage we are to gently
restore them, showing mercy by the action of restoration. Notice how the
beatitude of meekness is integrally related to a forgiving spirit. .
God has made us stewards of all He
has given us and we demonstrate the mercy of God to others by the way we
give to meet pressing needs. John writes...
But whoever has the world's goods,
and beholds (not a hasty glance but seeing a Christian in need of the
necessities of life over a long period) his brother in need and closes
his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little
children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and
truth. (1John 3:17-18, cf James 2:15-17-note,
Acts 9:36, Gal 6:10, Heb 13:16-note)
John is not referring to a chance
encounter with someone in need, as it would be impossible to help all
such needs, but a continual refusal to help a truly needy fellow
Christian with whom we are in frequent contact and who really needs the
help we have the resources to provide. Thus, mercy does not mean
we are to throw our
resources to the wind, but to as good stewards use them wisely in meeting the needs of
those in distress.
Mercy is found in speaking the
gospel of Christ, the good news of forgiveness and mercy, to fellow
The Psalmist declares,
redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the
adversary” (Ps 107:2)
Peter echoes this thought writing
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal
PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you
may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you
are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you
have RECEIVED MERCY. (1 Pet 2:9-10).
As believers who have receive such
infinite mercies we should now show mercy by
proclaiming Jesus Christ as Redeemer to those still in bondage to sin
and under an imminent sentence of eternal death (John 3:18, Heb 12:25,
We show mercy when we pray for the
conversion of unbelievers. Is it because others deserve to
know Christ and his forgiveness? Mercy was not given to us in our
unregenerate state because we deserved it but because God is rich in
mercy. As Peter declares...
Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to His great mercy has caused us
to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and
undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (cf 1Peter
And so we pray because
none of us
deserve to know Christ, none deserve forgiveness, and none
are even seeking after God (Ro 3:11-note).
We pray because as the recipients of "His great mercy", a mercy we long
for others to know and appropriate through placing their faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ. By definition, the only people who receive mercy are
those who don’t deserve it. If you deserve it, it’s not mercy.
Therefore, the basis for this verse is not how you want others to treat
you but how God has already treated you. “Do unto others as God has done
Merciful describes one who forgives another who is in the
wrong, and this display of the forgiving aspect of mercy is
poignantly demonstrated by Joseph in the treatment of his errant,
"caught red handed" brothers...
17 'Thus you shall say to Joseph, "Please forgive, I beg you, the
transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong."'
And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of
your father." And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said,
"Behold, we are your servants."
19 But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place?
20 "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good
in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people
21 "So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your
little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Kent Hughes offers some serious warnings in regard to personal
application of Jesus' parable writing that...
The first is this: If we have no mercy toward those who are physically
and economically in distress, we are not Christians. Notice I did not
say we become Christians by showing mercy toward the unfortunate, but
that we are not believers if we are unwilling to show mercy to them. The
second test involves the corresponding aspect of mercy - forgiveness.
The test is this: If we refuse to exercise mercy by extending
forgiveness, we are not Christians. Of course, it is frightening to
maintain that we cannot be truly forgiven unless we have forgiving
spirits. But it is true, because when God's grace comes into our hearts
it makes us merciful. Forgiveness demonstrates whether we have been
forgiven. So the telling line is this: If we refuse to be merciful,
there is only one reason - we have never understood the grace of Christ.
We are outside grace and are unforgiven. Jesus taught this in the
Parable of the Unmerciful Slave (Matthew 18:21-35). (see
note) ...The Lord here warns the religious person who attends church, can recite
the appropriate answers, leads an outwardly moral life, but holds a
death grip on his grudges. Jesus warns the one who will not forgive his
relatives or his former business associates regardless of their pleas.
He warns the one who nourishes hatreds, cherishes animosities, and
otherwise lives in settled malice.
Such a person had better take stock of his life.
Some words of qualification are in order. The warning is not for those
who find that bitterness and hatred recur even though they have forgiven
the offender. The fact that you have forgiven and continue to forgive is
a sign of grace, despite the ambivalences and imperfections of your
forgiveness. The warning is for those who have no desire to forgive.
Their souls are in danger.
There may also be some who find forgiveness difficult because they have
been recently offended and are still in such emotional shock that they
cannot properly respond. The warning is not for these.
The overall lesson is, if we are Christians, we can forgive and will
forgive, however imperfectly it may be. We cannot live like the
miserable brothers who divided over a dollar bill. (Hughes, R. K.
Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom.
For an incredible example of forgiveness
for the testimony by Corrie Ten Boom. As you read this convicting
illustration, take note of whether her dispensing of mercy was countered
by a receipt of mercy from God in an unusual "package".
of "Mercy Full"
A modern example of mercy is seen
in Calcutta which has one of the largest leprosy populations in all of
India. While the government does provide packets of medicine for leprosy
patients, most of the lepers have no one willing to bandage their sores.
With their acts of service (bandaging the sores of the lepers), the
Bible college students with the
Gospel for Asia
have been demonstrating God's compassion and love for those shunned by
most of the Indian society. As a result of demonstrating mercy to the
often shunned and otherwise hopeless lepers throughout India, the Lord
has blessed these efforts tremendously. In many of the leper colonies,
fellowship groups of new believers have sprung up, and some of these
have matured into churches. The believers of one church recently had the
joy of sending the first young man from their leper colony to one of
Gospel for Asia's Bible colleges to prepare for full-time ministry! May
we as believers in America go out in the same power of the Spirit,
demonstrating God's mercy to "the spiritual lepers" that are all around
us and may God bless our efforts allowing us as His children to bear
much fruit that will bring glory to Him and will endure througout
Solomon writes that...
He who despises his neighbor sins,
but happy is he who is
gracious to the poor. (Proverbs 14:21) [Amplified rendering "He who despises his neighbor sins [against
God, his fellowman, and himself], but happy (blessed and fortunate) is
he who is kind and merciful to the poor."]
Note what Jesus desires in
the following passage...
And as Jesus passed on from
there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He *
said to him, "Follow Me!" And he rose, and followed Him. 10 And it
happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many
tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His
disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His
disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and
sinners?" 12 But when He heard this, He said, "It is not those who are
(spiritually) healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13
"But go and learn (this phrase was commonly used by rabbis to
rebuke those who did not know what they should have known) what this
means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE (quoting Hosea 6:6),' for
I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:9-13)
Puritan Thomas Watson offered this explanation for the
promise attached to this beatitude. He said that it is only the merciful
who have “good security” in heaven. They will be paid with an
“For every wedge of gold you part with, you will have a
weight of glory. For a cup of cold water, a river of pleasure at God’s
right hand. The interest comes to far greater than the principal. Your
after crop of glory will be so great that though you spend a thousand
years you will not take it all in.” (Matthew 5:1-12 The Beatitudes: An
When Alexander Maclaren finished his exposition of this verse, he closed
by challenging his congregation to
“move among men as copies of God.”
What a powerful image that is—to be “copies of God.”
Francis of Assisi expressed the
Maclaren's challenging description is a similarly beautiful way...
Lord Make Me an Instrument
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me show love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not
So much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying
That we are born to eternal life.
Pastor Phil Newton relates
the concept that mercy shown to one should overflow in mercy to
others in Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables, writing
Victor Hugo picked upon on this idea
(whether from a biblical view or not, I really don’t know) in the
well-known novel, Les Miserables. The story takes place during a time of
upheaval in France. Jean Valjean, the main character, is a poor tree
trimmer that steals a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family.
Convicted of stealing, he spends 18 years in the slave galleys, rowing
the seas in misery. Upon his release, his attitude is hard and crusty,
ready for vengeance. By chance he stays in the home of a priest because
no one else will give him lodging, and during the night he robs the
priest of a silver candlestick and escapes from the town. Later when
apprehended, he is brought to the priest for identification, who then
tells the police, ‘I gave him the candlestick.’ Then he picks up another
and said that he gave him a pair of candlesticks but he had forgotten
the other when he left. Released by the police, he stumbled out of the
village, smitten by the mercy shown by the priest. His life
changes as he was affected by mercy. After being mistaken one
more time as a criminal, he refuses to head down that path again, and
spends the rest of his life showing mercy to the unfortunate,
even to those that had wronged him. In the end, the man that hunted him
for years is overcome by the mercy Jean Valjean displayed, and
lets him go. Though Victor Hugo may strain implications at points, he
effectively shows the residual effects of mercy. (Matthew 5:7 The
Blessing of Mercy)
Mercy is giving them a
piece of your heart, not a "piece of your mind" (see
Our Daily Bread)...
There's a legend about a rabbi who welcomed a weary traveler into his
home for a night of rest. After learning that his guest was almost a
hundred years old, the rabbi asked about his religious beliefs. The man
replied, "I'm an atheist." Infuriated, the rabbi ordered the man out,
saying, "I cannot keep an atheist in my house." Without a word, the
elderly man hobbled out into the darkness.
The rabbi was reading the Scriptures when he heard a voice, "Son, why
did you throw that old man out?"
"Because he is an atheist, and I cannot endure him overnight!"
The voice replied, "I have endured him for almost a hundred years." The
rabbi rushed out, brought the old man back, and treated him with
When we treat unbelievers with contempt, we're not serving God. He wants
us to love them as He has loved us. Jude said, "Keep yourselves in the
love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal
life. And on some have compassion, . . . but others save with fear, . .
. hating even the garment defiled by the flesh" (vv.21-23). We can still
love sinners while hating their sin.
God's abundant mercy to us is the motivation for us to be merciful to
others. --H V Lugt (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
It's better to give others a piece of your heart than a piece of your
In Faith's Checkbook
Spurgeon has a devotional on this beatitude entitled "We Receive as We
is not meet that the man who will not forgive should be forgiven, nor
shall he who will not give to the poor have his own wants relieved. God
will measure to us with our own bushels, and those who have been hard
masters and hard creditors will find that the LORD will deal hardly with
"He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy."
This day let us try to give and to forgive.
Let us mind the two bears - bear and forbear. Let us be kind, gentle,
and tender. Let us not put harsh constructions upon men's conduct, nor
drive hard bargains, nor pick foolish quarrels, nor be difficult to
please. Surely we wish to be blessed, and we also want to obtain mercy:
let us be merciful, that we may have mercy. Let us fulfill the
condition, that we may earn (Note: one cannot earn their salvation -
that is not Spurgeon's point, but it could be misconstrued that way.
Salvation is by grace through faith alone.) the beatitude.
Is it not a pleasant
duty to be kind? Is there not much more sweetness in it than in being
angry and ungenerous? Why, there is a blessedness in the thing
itself! Moreover, the obtaining of mercy is a rich reward (see Luke
6:35). What but sovereign grace could suggest such a promise as this'.
We are merciful to our fellow mortal in pence, and the LORD forgives us
"all the debt." (Faith's
) (Bolding added)
Be motivated by "Four-Eyed Living"
to enable you to practice this the "be attitude" of being "mercy full"...
A South American minnow-like fish is
called "four eyes" because it knows how to make the best of two worlds.
The Creator designed its large bulging eyes with an air lens on the
upper half and a water lens on the lower half. As it cruises along the
surface of the water, it is able to look at the world above and the
In a sense, believers in Christ must be like this little fish. As we go
through life, we need to look above to heaven and also below to the
world around us. The heavenward look enables us to focus on what God
says is true and right, and the "earthward" look helps us see
opportunities to demonstrate Christlike compassion to people who are
entangled in sin.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about seeking righteousness and
showing mercy (Mt. 5:6-7). The apostle Paul reinforced these two
concepts when he told the Corinthians to uphold God's standards but also
show mercy to a repentant brother (1 Cor 5:1-5; 2 Cor 2:1-7).
No one is in a better position to see both worlds clearly than those who
have Christ living within. Our eyes have been opened to God's truth, and
we have the Spirit to enable us to respond in love to the needs around
us. That's what "four-eyed living" is all about. –M R De Haan II
What wisdom lies in gentleness!
What force true meekness holds!
As truth combines with Christlike love,
A tale of good unfolds. –DJD
Keep God's truth in your head and His
love in your heart.
M R DeHaan writes...
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord
Jesus teaches us to combine idealism with realism. He shows us how to
keep from getting so wrapped up in life as it is that we don't see life
as it should be. On the other hand, He teaches us to avoid making the
equally destructive mistake of becoming so attached to our ideals that
we make impossible demands on those around us.
Columnist Sidney J. Harris wrote about the negative effects of
impractical idealism. He described an author who had so much to give in
his books, but so little to offer in real life. When Harris first read
this writer's works, he thought they were "like a breath of fresh air in
a fetid chamber. . . . He was big on Humanity, with a capital H, on
family ties and folkways and children and animals and flowers...." But,
as Harris laments, it was not an idealism borne out in the author's own
life. At home the man was a tyrant to his wife and a terror to his
children. He had an unrealistic ideal of what others should be, and he
could not tolerate their imperfections.
Christ instructs us to maintain a balance. His own example shows us how
to respond in truth and love to those who are imperfect. He teaches us
to be right but never to exclude mercy. If we follow Christ's example,
we will hold to the highest ideals, but we'll always be in touch with
the real world because our hearts are filled with love.—M. R. De Haan II
A righteous heart makes room for mercy.
F B Meyer discusses THE
ACTIVE SIDE OF THE BLESSED LIFE (Matt. 5:1-12)
LET us now turn to the active side of
the Blessed Life. The merciful are not content with bearing wrong, they
pity the wrongdoer, pity him with a great compassion, because they
realize that the heart which inflicts wrong must itself be tortured by
remorse, scourged with the whips of the Furies, and certain to have an
even more terrible awakening to shame and everlasting contempt. The
merciful, therefore, go forth with a great longing to deliver the
evildoer from himself.
It was thus that the Master felt when
He bore the sins of His murderers in His own body on the tree, prayed
for their forgiveness, and from His throne of glory sent the Spirit to
turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and of the disobedient to
the wisdom of the just.
The eyes of mercy are deep 'with
compassionate glances, full of tears, the homes of prayer; the feet of
mercy are soft in their tread, for they will not break the bruised reed,
nor quench the smoldering spark in the dimly-burning flax; the voice of
mercy is generous to the fallen, gentle to the weak, and gracious to the
offender; from the heart of mercy soothing balm flows to the wounds of
sinners, of sufferers, and of the world.
The only way in which thou canst
become merciful is to remember how much mercy thou needest and hast
obtained. "Seeing," said the Apostle, "that we have obtained mercy, we
faint not." Ah, think of the ten thousand talents that have been
forgiven thee, and thou wilt not take thy brother by the throat and
demand the hundred pence in which he is a defaulter. Hast thou forgotten
the moment when thou heardest thy Lord say, "Thy sins, which were many,
are all forgiven thee"? and art thou going to resent the approach of a
sinful soul, which loathes the miserable past and longs to be
emancipated from the burden of unforgiven sin? Remember thine own
exceeding bitter cry which God has recorded in His book," Have mercy
upon me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness: according unto the
multitude of Thy tender mercies."
The divinely merciful become, in the
very nature of things, the pure of heart. They have come to estimate by
their own inner experiences, and by the long effort which the inveterate
sin of others has demanded, how terrible and horrible a thing sin is.
The mother who has nursed one of her children through some loathsome and
painful disease is filled with horror at it, and will take extravagant
precautions to ward off the least germ or microbe that menaces her home.
Only those who have been forgiven again and again, and who have
forgiven, are quick to discern the first symptom of impurity, and to
turn from it with shuddering horror. Yes; and to know what sin costs to
those that have to deliver the sinner is such a revelation of the bitter
suffering of the Redeemer, that, in view of what impurity costs Him, the
soul flees from every taint of uncleanness, lest it should add one pang
more to that heart which is already pierced through with many sorrows.
The way to purity is by love.
Wouldest thou be pure, love Christ best of all, and love sinful men with
a great pity, and love shall be in thee like a fire. It is said that,
when Adam and Eve were created and lived in Eden, they needed no garment
of any kind, because the native innocence emitted rays of light which
enswathed their persons as an atmosphere. As much may be said of love,
for where it fills the heart it sheds forth light and fire, which
proceed from the very centre of our being, as the fire of God in the
midst of the burning bush.
The pure in heart are naturally the
peacemakers, because they cannot rest satisfied that the world of men
should remain alienated from the life and holiness of God. They become,
therefore, messengers of peace and benediction, seeking to reconcile
between God and man, or between man and man, which is a most needful
work, if ever the wrongs of time are to be righted, and earth become the
home of love.
The way to this is to ask God to tell
thee what work He is doing in the world, and whether thou mayest be
permitted to help Him. He will tell thee that, having laid the
foundations of peace in the Cross, He is going on to reconcile all
things to Himself, whether they be in heaven, or on earth, or under the
earth; and if thou wouldst have fellowship with Him, thou must set
thyself to deal with all that breaks peace in thyself and in others.
Often in their prayers God's servants
ask Him to help them. Without doubt the phrase can be abundantly
justified; but does it not suggest that God is to shape His activities
to the mould of our schemes, and accompany us along our chosen path? Is
it not better to realize that all the burden and responsibility rest
upon Him who is mighty; and that all working, whether to will or do,
must emanate from Him as the fountain, and pass through us as the
channel, sub-merging us as it passes forth to its blessed and victorious
Pre-eminently God is entitled "the
God of Peace." He is ever engaged in healing the wounds and reconciling
the enmities of the world. As nature covers the battlefield with golden
harvests, so does God seek to undo the results of feud and strife, and
lay foundations of justice for the temple of peace. Blessed indeed are
they whom He associates with Himself in such pacific ministries.
But all such become persecuted and
hated. It cannot be otherwise, apparently, in such a world as this. To
have fellowship with the Lamb we must have fellowship in His rejection
and suffering. The servant is not above his Lord, and therefore the
Master said sadly: "Ye shall indeed drink of My cup, and be baptized
with the baptism that I am baptized with."
It is impossible to follow the Lord
closely, and not be bespattered by the mud that was cast at Him. Indeed,
to miss it may fill us with questionings. The soldier who follows the
colonel through the thick of the fight will almost certainly have some
scar to carry to his after years. We must see to it that all the evil is
said against us falsely, and that we are reproached for the name of
Christ. Is this thine experience? Be of good cheer. Thou art on the
track bedewed by the tears and blood of the martyrs of Jesus, and as
they overcame so shalt thou. Be thou faithful unto death, and He shall
give thee a crown of life. But through all thou shalt have a secret joy,
a secret supply of strength, and a sweet intimacy with Him who before
Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession.
It should be noticed that these
beatitudes run in a parallel line with 1 Cor. 13., and show what Love
can be and do.
Poverty in spirit is Love in her
chosen garb of humility, for she vaunteth not herself, and is not puffed
Meekness is Love in the presence of
wrong. Mourning is Love in tears. Hunger is Love's appetite. Mercy is
Love on her errands of beneficence. Purity is Love on fire. Peacemaking
is Love's effort to adjust the wrong of the world. Persecution is Love's
requital at the hands of those whom she would help. And Love is all
this, intensely, perennially, constantly, because she cannot help it.
Character has been defined as being what a man is in the dark; and Love
is all this, not for fee or reward, not for notoriety or advertisement,
but because she cannot be other. To be this is to be herself.
But who is sufficient for these
things? How can they be originated and perpetuated? What is their
nutriment and support? There is but one reply. The Holy Spirit must come
upon thee and overshadow thee; Christ must be formed in thee; Heaven
must descend to thee before it can shine out from thee.
It has been said that there is
neither Cross nor Pentecost in the Sermon on the Mount, but surely they
are implied. The broad, much-trodden road foretells the great city
whither it leads, and these wonderful chapters inevitably conduct to
Calvary and the Upper Room.
Let a man seek to attain to Christ's
ideal, and he will discover the infinite disparity between its crystal
heights and his ineffectual efforts to clamber to their majestic crest;
he will need the propitiation and cleansing of the Blood of the Cross;
he will confess to the weakness and impotence of the Flesh; he will lie
at the feet of the Crucified as one dead, until the life of His
resurrection enters to infill, indwell, and empower.
There is no hope of our being able to
realize this exquisite portraiture by imitation or even by mediation.
No; He who originally conceived this ideal, who Himself lived it, must
incarnate Himself within us by the Holy Spirit, that He may reproduce in
and through us that which He has inspired us to desire. He must give us
what He commands; He must be in us what He prescribes. F. B. Meyer. The
Directory of the Devout Life
In his book Blessed Are Ye,
F B Meyer has this chapter on mercy -
IT GOETH FORTH AND
"Blessed are the merciful: for they
shall obtain mercy."--Matt. 5:7.
NOTICE where our Saviour puts this beatitude, the heart of which is
mercy. It follows that longing after righteousness which is the
characteristic of the righteous, because mercy is the white flower on
the stem of a righteous life. Indeed, the absence of mercy in our temper
and disposition shows that our righteousness is that of the
ceremonialist, as that of Saul, who was blameless as touching the
righteousness which is of the law, but utterly devoid of those Christian
virtues which indicate the presence of the truly holy heart. The
religion which is devoid of mercy is that of the exterior form, but
destitute of the inward power. It was therefore with a Divine insight
that our Lord put mercy after righteousness--first, because a man must
be right before he can be merciful; and second, he must be rightly
adjusted with the Fountain of mercy so that the Divine quality of mercy
can pass unhindered through him, and approve him to be a son of the
All-Merciful. Search your heart, and see if you have learnt forgiveness
for the sinning, and pity for the sorrowful; not otherwise can you
account yourself righteous after God's fashion.
Mercy is the exclusive prerogative of
Christianity. The schools of ancient morality had four cardinal
virtues--justice in human relations, prudence in the direction of
affairs, fortitude in bearing trouble and sorrow, temperance or
self-restraint; but they knew nothing of mercy, which is not natural to
the human heart. It is an exotic which Christ brought with Him from
heaven. As long as the Lord Jesus tarried amongst men, He poured forth
mercy in its double form of forgiveness and succor, to those that hated
and to those that were wronged; and when He passed back to the Father,
the Church took up His blessed work, and came to the world, as the dew
distilling on the parched pastures, to become the saviour and
regenerator of society. She found the most horrible practices in vogue,
which she stayed; the most preposterous customs, which she tempered;
amusements and games, which she discountenanced and finally abolished.
She extended her beneficent sceptre to captives, and women oppressed
with innumerable wrongs, and little children. Regardless of her own
sufferings, she existed apparently for the sole reason of ministering to
those that wronged and oppressed her, as well as to those who were being
trampled under foot by greed and lust and hate. Thus mercy sprang out of
the ground in response to the righteousness which looked down from
I. THE QUALITY OF MERCY.
It is evidently a phase of love, for
each of these beatitudes enshrines some aspect of the Love of God in the
soul of man.
The first is Love in her humility,
with such great thoughts of the possibilities within her reach that she
counts herself not to have attained.
The second is Love in tears,
bewailing the lovelessness of the world.
The third is Love suffering wrong in
the hope of vanquishing it.
The fourth is Love impelled by
insatiable desire for fuller satisfaction.
The fifth, of which we are now
treating, is Love retaliating on wrong.
The sixth is Love burning with a
faith so pure that evil cannot withstand.
The seventh is Love so equable that
it can quiet and steady anger and strife.
The eighth is Love misunderstood and
Each is therefore a facet on which
the sunlight falls, and from which it is reflected at a new angle, and
with a new beauty. Let the Love of God dwell in you richly, and as it
passes out from you to strike the many evils of the world, each phase of
sin will elicit and reflect some special quality. Some day it may appear
that sin was permitted, in order to set forth the perfect beauty of
Divine love, just as clouds unravel the contents of the light into
There is a distinction between
Meekness and Mercifulness.--Meekness is the passive, mercy the active
side of Love. The meek man entering into union with the love of God,
which is ever-suffering beneath the wrong of the world, and knowing that
the power of evil will presently be broken by meek forbearance, suffers
with the long-suffering of God. But mercy goes farther. It takes
measures with the wrong-doer. In mercy our love issues forth toward the
perpetrator of injury, pitying, bending down with tender hand and gentle
touch, pouring in oil and wine, and endeavoring, by the coals of fire it
heaps on the offender, to melt his obdurate heart, and bring him to a
happier state. Mercy seeks out the wrong-doer, if so be that it may lead
him to repentance, notices the first symptom of return and meets it,
welcomes him with kisses, undoes the injury which he has wrought to
himself, and reinstates him in the old place.
There is also some difference between
mercy and forgiveness. Love is the parent and root of all. Grace is love
coming forth to meet those who had forfeited all claim upon it.
Forgiveness is love assuring the wrong-doer that the past is forgotten.
Mercy tries to ameliorate the condition of the sinner. Whenever wrong is
done you, think less of what you suffer than of the state of his heart,
its darkness and misery, who has done the ill, and when you have
conceived of it, seek to alleviate it. This is mercy.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH AWAKE
First, Sin rain
Psalm 51. we have the plaintive cry
of a broken heart.
" Have mercy upon me, O God,
according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy
tender mercies blot out my transgressions, against Thee, Thee only, have
I sinned, that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice."
Forgiveness is not enough, the broken
bones cry out for mending. Forgiveness does not necessarily include
reparation of the hurt, which wrong-doing inflicts on the wrong-doer.
The drunkard may be forgiven, and yet have to bear the results of injury
to his body and nerve; nevertheless, when such an one is forgiven, he
may also count on the mercy of God, pitying that trembling, palsied
hand, and that wrecked constitution, and endeavoring so far as may be
possible, to undo the havoc, and to bring again his flesh as fair as
that of a little child. Thus mercy rejoices against judgment.
Luke 10:37 tells of the mercy of the
stranger to which even the Scribe bore unwilling testimony.
"Which of these," asked the Lord,
after He had vividly portrayed Priest, Levite, and Samaritan, " proved
neighbor to him that fell among the thieves?" And the Scribe was
compelled to admit, " He that showed mercy on him."
In such a state of things as that
which surrounds us in any great city, we must be careful to allow our
mercy to flow freely forth. Nothing is worse than to be always checking
it from fear of imposition. Better to be deceived and wronged now and
again, than to be always withholding the hand. We must take care, of
course, not to harm men by encouraging them in idleness and lying fraud.
It is the truest mercy often to withhold the dole of charity from those
who would misspend it. We must see to it, also, that we are not content
with the impulsive act of benevolence, which flings some coin to the
outstretched hand to save itself the trouble of investigating the need,
and ascertaining the best way of meeting it. Mercy may refuse to give on
the spur of the moment, that it may help permanently and efficiently. We
must be very careful, also, not to entrust the giving of our alms to the
paid hand of agents and professional almoners. Organized charity is a
symptom of Christianity which retains the name of Christ, but from which
His Spirit has fled. If mercy is to rise spontaneously and perennially,
it must be nurtured by personal contact with sorrow and suffering. Its
own hands must bind the sores, and smooth the pillow, and arrange the
disordered room, and watch through the night-vigils.
Third, Ignorance and Infirmities.--
Hebrews 2:17, 10:15. Our Lord Jesus
is a merciful and faithful High Priest . . . touched with the feeling of
our infirmities, and able to have compassion on the ignorant and erring.
Mercy does not wait for sorrow and
need to appeal to her. She goes to seek them. She does not wait for the
injury to be wrought on her, before being prompted to retaliate in
heaven's own kind, but her lovely form casts a light as it passes
through the squalid street, climbing the creaking staircase, and
pursuing the victims of the great wrong of the world where they hide
their festering sores. Oh, beautiful is the light on Mercy's face, when
she beholds some scene of want and woe, from which the refinement and
culture of the world would turn, disgusted and loathing. This is work
that she loves. Here she is in her element. She needs no teaching, for
the heaven-born instincts of her heart prompt her. Her voice is musical
with the tones of the Incarnate Saviour. Her hand is deft and soft. Her
tread is beautiful as it passes along the mountain track; rugged,
storm-swept, difficult to the foot. To have seen her would make you
think that you had met one of the daughters of the family of God.
III. THE BENEDICTION
It has been noticed that the three
first beatitudes touch the lower plane of our experience by which need
has to be met with its opposite. Hence the blessedness consists in
imparting the appropriate satisfaction, but the fifth, sixth, and
seventh--that is, the three which lie on the hither side of desire--are
those of the saint, whose blessedness consists in having more of the
quality already possessed. Hence, mercy is the appropriate reward of
those who already show it.
Have you ever noticed the way in
which these attributes of the blessed life demand the coming of the
Comforter? Matthew 5. demands John 15, 16. The commandments of the forty
days demand the gift of Pentecost. The traits of Christian character
must be burnt in by the Baptism of Fire. There must be a power yet to be
revealed by which these rare and precious exotics may be made to bloom
on the wintry soil of the soul. The law of love is given in all its
fulness on this mount of beatitudes, as the law of righteousness amid
the thunders of Sinai, that being hopeless of ourselves, we may be shut
up to faith in the Holy Ghost, who alone can work in us the fruit of the
Divine life. " The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
long-suffering, gentleness, meekness."
The merciful alone experience all the
mercifulness of God.--It was after Job had pitied and prayed for his
friends that his own captivity was brought again. " See," says the
apostle, " the end of the Lord, that He is full of pity, and merciful."
If we go through the world ministering to others, God will come and
minister to us. His angels will come around us with their gentle
ministry, doing for us as we have sought to do for others. " Blessed is
he that considereth the poor, the Lord will remember him in time of
In one of His most striking parables
our Lord depicts the forgiven steward, who took his brother by the
throat, demanding payment, as forfeiting the clemency which his Lord's
mercy had brought him. " Shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy
fellow-servant, as I had mercy upon thee? And he delivered him up to the
tormentors." That cannot mean that God ever withdraws His mercy from the
soul He has once forgiven, because God cannot change His mind, but it
means surely that the unmerciful cannot claim God's mercy. If,
therefore, thou hast not forgiven, thou hast not been forgiven. Each
time you utter the Lord's Prayer--Forgive, according to the measure of
my own forgiveness --you really say, Do not forgive me because I have
not forgiven, and I dare not ask Thee to do for me what I have not done
for my brother sinner.
Be sure that in coming days you will
need forgiveness, more, perhaps, than you realize, for you do not know
yourself; but, at such a time, the failure to show mercy will arise,
and, lifting its voice, will plead against you and overpower your plea
The merciful may count on mercy from
their fellows.--None are treated so mercilessly as the merciless. With
what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again. Let any one be
censorious in criticism, vindictive and malicious, quick to resent a
wrong, bitter and uncharitable in speech, relentless in demanding
reparation; and the time will come when that soul will need mercy from
its fellows, and meet the stolid stare of indifference. " And Adonibezek
said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes
cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath
On the other hand, those who are
tender and gentle in their judgment, patient and forbearing in
disposition, peaceable and easy to be entreated, quick to forgive the
wrong-doer, and to repair the wrong, will never be in need of mercy, but
in hours of darkness and peril, forgotten acts of kindness will arise
from long-buried seeds, and mercy which had gone forth to bless others
will return from its long journey and many errands, in time to comfort
and requite the heart from which it started forth. " Blessed are the
merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
How great has been Thy goodness to
me, O Lord, who am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies; make me
tender and forgiving to my fellow servants, as Thou hast been to me;
that their hearts may, in turn, be softened, and taught the law of mercy
and long-suffering. F. B. Meyer. Blessed Are Ye
J. Hamilton's sermon on
"Blessed are the merciful."
This does not mean the soft and easy
natures which confound the distinctions of right and wrong. Nor does it
mean that mere humanity and kindliness which are native to some spirits,
and which find a pleasure in seeing all around them happy. But the
mercifulness of the text is a principle and a grace. It comes from the
happy sense of forgiveness. It is the mercifulness of one who not only
seeks to obtain mercy, but who has obtained it already.
I. Mercifulness is commiseration for suffering men. Though under the
government of a God of love, this world is the abode of much suffering,
because it has been, and still is, the theatre of much sin. God leaves
the Christian here that he may be the channel of God's beneficence and
the perpetuation of His Master's kindness.
II. Mercifulness is compassion for the souls of men. This sort of mercy
is a surer test of piety. Blessed are they whose pity, like the Divine
compassion, seeks the lost.
III. The merciful man is considerate of the comfort and feelings of
others—of their health and comfort. From want of forethought, or want of
timely activity on their own part, people who are not cruel often
perpetrate great cruelties. Blessed are they whose thoughtful vigilance
and sympathetic delicacy make them the guardians and the comforters of
acute and tender natures, a balm to those feelings which are
over-exquisite, and a tonic to those which are too susceptible.
IV. The merciful man is considerate of his neighbour's character.
Perhaps there is no production of our world so66 rare and precious, and
yet none which has so many enemies or is so generally attacked, as
character. We are apt, in needlessness or bitterness, to take up or even
get up a prejudice against particular persons; their oddities, their
opposition to our opinions, their successful rivalry in our own line of
life, make us severe or hostile censors, and too ready to believe or
repeat what is spoken to their disadvantage. But nothing can be more
alien to the spirit of the Gospel. It urges us to resemble God Himself,
who is the great Guardian of reputations and the Avenger of injured
V. The merciful man is merciful to his beast. Blessed are the merciful;
for their merciful disposition is an indication of what they are, and an
earnest of what awaits them. They have found mercy, and they shall
obtain mercy. (J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 1.)
Alexander Maclaren - The
‘Blessed are the merciful: for they
shall obtain mercy.’—Matt. 5:7.
The divine simplicity of the
Beatitudes covers a divine depth, both in regard to the single precepts
and to the sequence of the whole. I have already pointed out that the
first of the series is to be regarded as the root and germ of all the
subsequent ones. If for a moment we set it aside and consider only the
fruits which are successively developed from it, we shall see that the
remaining members of the sequence are arranged in pairs, of which each
contains, first a characteristic more inward and relating to the deep
things of individual religion; and second a characteristic which has its
field of action in our relations to men.
For example, the mourners and the meek are paired. Those who hunger and
thirst after righteousness and the merciful are paired. ‘The pure in
heart’ and ‘the peacemakers’ are paired.
Now that sequence can scarcely be accidental. It is the application in
detail of the great principle which our Lord endorsed in its Old
Testament form when He said that the first great commandment, the love
of God, had a companion consequent on and like unto it, the love of our
neighbour. Religion without beneficence, and beneficence without
religion, are equally maimed. The one is a root without fruit, and the
other a fruit without a root. The selectest emotions, the lowliest
faith, the loftiest aspirations, the deepest consciousness of one’s own
unworthiness—these priceless elements of personal religion—are of little
worth unless there are inseparably linked with them meekness,
mercifulness, and peacemaking. ‘What God hath together, let not man put
asunder.’ If any joined Christian people have neglected the service of
man for the worship of God they are flying in the face of Christ
teachings. If any antagonists of Christianity attack it on the ground
that it fosters such neglect, they mistake the system that they
criticise, and are judging it by the imperfect practice of the disciples
instead of by the perfect precepts of the Master.
So, then, here we have a characteristic lodged in the very heart of this
series of Beatitudes which refers wholly to our demeanour to one
another’. My remarks now will, therefore, be of a very homely,
commonplace, and practical kind.
I. Note The Characteristic On Which Our Lord Here Pours Out His
Now, like all the other members of
this sequence, with the exception, perhaps, of the last, this quality
refers to disposition much rather than to action Conduct is included of
course; But conducted only secondarily. Jesus Christ always puts conduct
second, as all wise and great teachers do. As a man thinketh in his
heart so is he.’ That is the keynote of all noble morality. And none has
over carried it out more thoroughly than has the morality of the Gospel.
It is a poor translation and limitation of this great word which puts in
the foreground merely merciful actions. The mercifulness of my text is,
first and foremost, a certain habitual way of looking at and feeling
towards men, especially to men in suffering and need, and most
especially to men who have proved themselves bad and blameworthy. It is
implied that a rigid retribution would lead to severer methods of
judgment and of action.
Therefore the first characteristic of the merciful man is that he is
merciful in his judgments; not making the worst of people, no Devil’s
Advocate in his estimates of his fellows; but, endlessly, and, as the
world calls it, foolishly and incredibly, gentle in his censures, and
ever ready to take the charitable—which is generally the
truer—construction of acts and motives. That is a very threadbare
thought,—brother, but the way to invest commonplace with startling power
is to bring it into immediate connection with our own life and conduct.
And if you will try to walk by this threadbare commonplace for a week, I
am mistaken if you do not find out that it has teeth to bite and a firm
grip to lay upon you. Threadbare truth is not effete until it is obeyed,
and when we try to obey it, it ceases to be commonplace. I may remind
you that this mercifulness, Again, which is primarily an inward emotion,
and a way, as I said, of thinking of, and of looking at unworthy people,
must necessarily, of course, find its manifestation in our outward
conduct. And there will be, what I need not dilate upon, a readiness to
help to give , to forgive not only offences against society and
morality, but offences against ourselves.
I need not dwell longer upon this first part of my subject. I wished
mainly to emphasise that to begin with action, in our understanding of
mercifulness, is a mistake, and that we must clear our hearts of
antipathies and antagonisms and cynical suspicions, if we would inherit
the blessings of our text.
Before I go further, I would point out the connection between this
incumbent duty of mercifulness and the preceding virtue of meekness. It
is hard enough to bear ‘the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy
takes,’ without one spot of red in the cheek, one perturbation or flush
of anger in the heart; and to do that might task us all to the utmost.
But that is not all that Christ’s ethics require of us. It is not
sufficient to exercise the passive virtue of meekness; there must of
mercifulness. And to call for that be the active one is to lay an
additional weight upon our consciences, and to strain and stretch still
further the obligation under which we come. We have not done what the
worst men and our most malicious enemies have a right to receive from us
when we say, with the cowardly insincerity of the world, ‘I can forgive
but I cannot forget.’ That is no forgiveness, and that is no
mercifulness. It is not enough to stand still, unresisting. There must
be a hand of helpfulness stretched out, and a gush of pity and
mercifulness in the heart, if we are to do what our Master has done for
us all, and what our Master requires us to do for one another.
Mercifulness is the active side of the passive meekness.
Further, in a word, I would note here another thing, and that is, what a
sad stern, true view of the condition of men in the world results from
noticing that the only three qualities in regard to our relation to them
which Christ sets in this sevenfold tiara of diamonds are meekness in
the face of hatred and mercifulness in the face weakness and wickedness;
peace making in the face of hostility and wrangling. What a world in
which we have to live, where the crowning graces are those which
presuppose such vices as these do! Ah! dear friends, ‘as sheep in the
midst of wolves’ is true to-day. And the one conquering power is patient
gentleness, which recompenses all evil with good and is the sole means
of transforming and thus overcoming it.
People talk a great deal, and a good deal of it very insincerely, about
their admiration for these precepts gathered together in this chapter.
If they would try to live them for a fortnight, they would perhaps pause
a little longer than some of them do before they said, as do people that
detest the theology of the New Testament, ‘The Sermon on the Mount is my
religion.’ Is it? It does not look very like it. At all events, if it
is, it is a religion behind which practice most wofully limps.
II. Let Me Ask You To Look At What I Have Already In Part Referred
The place in this series which Mercifulness holds.
Now, of course, I know, and nothing that I say now is to be taken for a
moment as questioning or underestimating it, that, altogether apart from
religion, there is interwoven into the structure of human nature that
sentiment of mercifulness which our Lord here crowns with His
benediction. But it is not that natural, instinctive sentiment—which is
partially unreliable, and has little power apart from the reinforcement
of higher thoughts to carry itself consistently through life—that our
Lord is here speaking about; but it is a mercifulness which is more than
an instinct, more than a sentiment, more than the natural answer of the
human heart to the sight of compassion and distress, which is, in fact,
the product of all that has preceded it in this linked chain of
characteristics and their blessings.
And so I ask you to recall these. ‘Poor in spirit,’ ‘mourning,’ ‘meek,’
‘hungering and thirsting after righteousness’-these are the springs that
feed the flow of this river; and if it be not fed from them, but from
the surface-waters of human sentiment and instinct, it will dry up long
before it has availed to refresh barren places, and to cool thirsty
lips. And also the preceding promises, ‘theirs is the kingdom of
heaven’;’ they shall be comforted’;’ they shall inherit the earth; ‘they
shall be filled.’ These are experiences which, again, are another
collection of the head-waters of this stream That is to say, the true,
lasting, reliable, conquering mercifulness has a double source. The
consciousness of our own weakness, the sadness that creeps over the
heart when it makes the discovery of its own sin, the bowed submission
primarily to the will of God, and secondarily to the antagonisms which,
in subservience to will, we may meet in life, and the yearning desire
for a fuller righteousness and a more lustrous purity in our own live
and characters these are the experiences which will make a man gentle in
his judgment of his brother, and full of melting charity in all his
dealings with him. If I know how dark my own nature is, how prone to
uncommitted evils, how little I have to thank myself for the virtues
that I have practised, which are largely due to my exemption from
temptation and to my opportunities, and how little I have in my own self
that I can venture to bring to the stern judgment which I am tempted to
apply to other people, then the words of censure will falter on my
tongue, and the bitter construction of my brother’s conduct and
character will be muffled in silence. Except as to open out breakings,’
said one of the very saintliest of men, ‘I want nothing of what Judas
and Cain had! If we feel this, we shall ask ourselves, Who art thou that
judgest another man’s servant?’ and the condemnation of others will
stick in our throats when we try to utter it.
And, on the other hand, if I, through these paths of self-knowledge, and
lowly estimate of self, and penitent confession of sin, and flexibility
of will to God, and yearning, as for my highest food and good, after a
righteousness which I feel I do not possess, have come into the position
in which my poverty is, by His gift, made rich, and the tears are wiped
away from off my face by His gracious hand, and a full possession of
large blessings bestowed on my humble will, and the righteousness for
which I long imparted to me, shall I not have learned how divine a thing
it is to give to the unworthy, and so be impelled to communicate what I
have already received? ‘Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved
children and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us.’ They only are
deeply, through and through, universally and always merciful who have
received mercy. The light is reflected at the same angle as it falls,
and the only way by which there can come from our faces and lives a
glory that shall lighten many dark hearts, and make sunshine in many a
shady place, is that these hearts shall have turned full to the very
fountain itself of heavenly radiance, and so’ have received of the Lord
that which also’ they ‘deliver’ unto men.
And so, brethren, there are two plain, practical exhortations from these
thoughts. One is, let us Christian people learn the fruits of God’s
mercy, and be sure of this, that our own mercifulness in regard to men
is an accurate measure of the amount of the divine mercy which we have
received. The other is, let all of us learn the root of man’s mercy to
men. There is plenty a sort, of philanthropy and beneficent and
benevolent work and feeling to-day, entirely apart from all perception
of, and all faith in, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in so far as the
individuals who exercise that beneficence are concerned. I, for my part,
am narrow enough to believe that the streams of non-Christian
charitableness, which run in our land and in other lands to-day, have
been fed from Christ’s fountain, though the supply has come underground,
and bursts into light apparently unconnected with its source. If there
had been no New Testament there would have been very little of the
beneficence which flouts the New Testament to-day. Historically, it is
the great truths, which we conveniently summarise as being evangelical
Christianity, that have been mother to the new charity that, since
Christ, has been breathed over the world. I, for my part, believe that
if you strike out the doctrine of universal sinfulness, if you cover
over the Cross of Christ, if you do not find in it the manifestation of
a God who is endlessly merciful to the most unworthy, you have destroyed
the basis on which true and operative benevolence will rest. So then,
dear brethren, let us all seek to get a humbler and a truer conception
of what we ourselves are, and a loftier and truer faith of what God in
Christ is; and then to, remember that if we have these, we are bound to,
and we shall, show that we have them, by making that which is the anchor
our hope the pattern of our lives.
III. Lastly Notice The Requital, ‘They Shall Obtain Mercy.
Now, it is a wretched weakening of
that great thought to suppose that it means that if A. is merciful to
B., B. will be merciful to A. That is sometimes true, and sometimes it
is not. It does not so very much matter whether it is true or not; that
is not what Jesus Christ means. All these beatitudes are God’s gifts and
this is God’s gift too. It is His mercy which the merciful man obtains.
But you say: ‘Have you not just been telling us that this sense and
experience of God’s mercy must precede my mercy, and now you say that my
mercy must precede God’s?’ No; I do not say that it must precede it; I
do say that my mercifulness is, as it were, lodged between the segments
of a golden circle, and has on one side the experience of the divine
mercy which quickens mine by thankfulness and imitation; on the other
side, the larger experience of the divine mercy which follows upon my
walking after the example of my Lord.
This is only one case of the broad general principle, ‘to him that hath
shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken even that
which he hath.’ Salvation is no such irreversible gift as that once
bestowed a man can go on anyhow and it will continue; but it is given in
such a fashion as that, for its retention, and still more for its
increase, there must be a certain line of feeling and of action.
Our Lord does not mean to say, of course, that this one isolated member
of a series carries with it the whole power of bringing down upon a man
the blessings which are only due to the combination of the whole series,
but that it stands as one of that linked band which shall receive the
blessing from on high. And the blessing here is stated in accordance
with the. particular Grace in question, according to that great law of
retaliation which brings life unto life and death unto death.
No man who, having received the mercy of God, lives harsh, hard,
self-absorbed, implacable, and uncommunicative, will keep that mercy in
any vivid consciousness or to any blessed issue. The servant took his
fellow-servant by the throat, and said, ‘Pay me that thou owest,’ and
his master said, ‘Deliver him to the tormentors until he pay the
You receive your salvation as a free gift; you keep it by feelings and
conduct correspondent to the gift.
Though benevolence which has an eye to self is no benevolence, it is
perfectly legitimate, and indeed absolutely necessary, that whilst the
motive for mercifulness is me mercy received, the encouragement to
mercifulness should be mercy still to be given. Walk in love, as Christ
also hath loved us; and when you think of your own unworthiness, and of
the great gifts which a gracious God has given, let these impel you to
move amongst men as copies of God, and be sure that you deepen your
spiritual life, not only by meditation and by faith, but by practical
work and by showing towards all men mercy like the mercy which God has
bestowed upon you.