God, Who Is Rich in Mercy

Ephesians 2:4
" But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great Jove wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Such are the words of the Spirit of God by the pen of Paul the apostle.
The contrasts which led him to use the little word "but" are remarkable. I will notice them shortly. At present, let me call attention to the words themselves. But God being rich in mercy is a more literal rendering; and it is, I think, a happier one too, as tending to throw the mind upon the character of God-of whom mercy is so distinctly a mark,-rather than upon His resources,- the resources by which mercy told out its own tale; it acted toward us in a truly astonishing way, according to an almighty love which found us even when we were dead in sins. We were parts of the first creation, as descended from Adam, the man who was made a living soul but who fell away from God his Maker ' we were, as to nature in our original state, without life as to any understanding of, or power to understand, thee things which pertain to Him who is the One that creates anew; and as to our own actual state when He found us, sins and not obedience characterized it. But God made us parts of that new creation which is yet to be fully displayed in the future new heavens and new earth wherein is to dwell righteousness. The Father works hitherto and the Son works, in redemption for the bringing out from amid the rubbish of the fall, whatsoever divine wisdom sees it good to bring and to make fit to be displayed in redemption-glory. And not only so; for the place in which the mercy here spoken of sets us, is a most peculiar one. It is peculiar in being in the leavens where Christ Himself is; and it is still more peculiar in that it is such a portion in the heavens as, unlike some other portions, cannot be separated either from the Lord Himself; or from Him in His life and the honor wherewith He has been honored in heaven. Quickened together with Christ; raised up together with Him, and made sit together with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus! The words " quickened together with Christ" show that we have the same life as He has; yea, He Himself is our life; our life is hid with Christ in God: He died and His body was laid in the grave,-He suffered in our stead; but He left the grave and afterward left the earth-(the one, the place opened for the sinner; the other, the place prepared at first for Adam, and) He ascended up on high; and we that believe are one spirit with the Lord Jesus, and are looked upon by God, and by the faith that is in us (which always sees things as God sees them) as one with Him. To faith and to the Spirit the grave and the earth are passed; we are gone up in Him. And not only so but we have a stable and abiding resting place in Him in heaven; in spirit in Him who sits there in His own peculiar place,-firstborn among many brethren,-Head of His body the Church. Who can separate between the only begotten Son of the Father and the children by adoption, whom the Father has entrusted Him to bring to Himself at His own proper cost and as His own proper workmanship? Who can separate Him from the members as to whom God says that this Christ Jesus at His own right hand is now the glorified Head?
When we were dead and in sins, there was nothing in us to commend us to God as Creator; nor can any right or title be found in Saul, or in the Ephesians, or in ourselves, as ground why God should have taken us up as individuals and left so many other pharisees, so many other heathens, so many others who like us had the form of godliness without the power of it behind. All that we can say is: "But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us ": this was, is, and ever will be, to faith, the starting point of the blessing:-
"How shall I: meet His eyes?
Mine on Himself I „cast,,—
And own myself the Savior's prize;
Mercy from first to, last."
But mercy! What is mercy? And where is mercy? Mercy clearly is not the same thing as grace Grace is free gift, and does not necessarily raise the question of the agreement or disagreement of the characters of the giver and of the party given to: Free gift, gift without any-remuneration paid for it to the giver, seems to me to be the meaning of the word grace. But there is more in mercy than that; the term itself marks de-merit in the receiver, consciousness too in the giver or shower of mercy that the party to whom he shows it deserves a contrary kind of treatment: as -to merit harsh treatment was due, not kindly. Thus the two words are carefully distinguished in the use of them in Scripture.." Grace and peace to you," etc., are constantly (as has oft been noticed) wished to the Church by the apostolic writers: mercy is never so introduced. "Grace, mercy and peace" are- the expressed desires of the apostles when writing to individual believers, who in their individual conflicts and walk down here, are looked at as men in the body; while the assembly once taken up is looked at as being in the Spirit. Again the Son of God as Son of man was never the object of divine mercy. That could not be. He was the channel of it; and a perfect, competent and worthy channel too. But love divine does delight to trace out all the rich free gifts of God which cluster around Him who led captivity captive and took His seat on high. Poor sinners and feeble saints need mercy, and so does he who through faith would over-come and share with Him, THE Overcomer, all that He has. And this brings not with it to faith, any question. For He who in love has claimed me for Himself and given Himself, His own self, to me, will with Himself make, one way or another, all that He has mine: If I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine, surely His sheep, His vineyard, His kingdom, His all is mine; and mine- forever all that is His: and He too will provide me with mercy and grace to help in every time of need till I come to see Himself.
But whence is mercy? Whence could it be but from God? He giveth liberally and does not upbraid. He is good and doeth good, and loves to construct and form scenes of enjoyment for His creatures;-these very scenes are witnesses of and for Himself. " The Lord is merciful and gracious." Mercy is part of His character. "His mercy is from everlasting (eternity without beginning, before time) to everlasting (past time)": it is the blessed cord which hangs from eternity, across the dark vale we are now in, right across to eternity beyond. So His word, who cannot lie, declares. He Who was the enemy of God and became the enemy of man, loves to destroy and pull to pieces all that he can, and he is a liar from the beginning. But God had and has in Himself a character which enables Him to look upon that which is out of the way, which has a character of its own which is diametrically opposed to the character of that One man whom God delights to honor (the Lord Jesus Christ) and to look, in mercy and to propose to His Son to bring the self-willed rebel from under Satan and from out of this world and its judgment and to make of him a vessel of mercy.
If we turn now to Paul's epistle to the Romans, we shall find some profitable and some soul-humbling, but rest-giving instruction about this subject of mercy. In the course of the epistle he takes up the argument in three ways. First, as to the whole race of man in its present state: there is no possible ground for there to be blessing to any single individual of that, race other than the pure mercy of God.
Secondly, that for a person saved by mercy, mercies are reserved in store by God for his portion.
Thirdly, dispensationally, nor Jew nor Gentile-the two classes into which God's ways, while governing the earth, and while waiting in mercy on sinful man, had divided the race-had any ground of blessing save mercy.
These are the first three parts of the epistle. After the introduction, Chapter 1:1-15, we have, first, Chapter 1:16 to 3:20, man's utterly lost and ruined condition shown-a state so far as he himself, with all his resources of power, is concerned, utterly hopeless; then, secondly, Chapter 3:21 to 7, the provision which God, who is rich in mercy, had made for this state of things, and Chapter 8 the portion provided for those who should own this mercy as their only ground; thirdly, Chapter 9, 10, 11, nor Jew nor Gentile had any ground to rest upon save mercy; and, fourthly, the character of walk consistent with the profession of having found mercy, been found in mercy.
The introduction, Chapter 1:1-15, naturally enough also contains the whole outline of the truth which, at the moment of his writing, was pressing upon the mind of the writer whom mercy had found-as he writes of himself (1 Tim. 1:11-1711According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. 12And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:11‑17)), " according to the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief: Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory, forever and ever. Amen."
Such an one was made a servant of Jesus Christ, an apostle by calling, and set apart for the proclamation of God's good news: subject which told out what was the ground of that peace which is God's own peace, spite of all that Satan, or the world, or man can do to counter-work Him; subject on which He loved to occupy Himself and His prophets of old-His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. And this Jesus was seed of David according to the flesh, but marked off from every other as the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead.
A man, and He the Son of God-set off with this distinctive peculiarity, He is the Raiser from death, the Raiser out from among the dead;-death being the wages of sin, and the end of man's natural course here-is plainly enough God's mercy. It is His putting forth-out of His own resources and to counterwork Satan, whom man has put in the place of power as to everything that man could dispose of-the Son of God. In result to man it is mercy or judgment to every individual according to his own conduct and state now with regard to this blessed announcement. And a worthy subject this to be that which was entrusted to Paul for the obedience of faith among all nations.
When Paul begins his letter itself, as in Chapter i. 16, he presents man as needing salvation and righteousness (ver. 17), and deliverance from the wrath of God revealed from heaven (ver. 18). And all this was contained in the glad tidings of Christ. That man's state and condition needed such a deliverance, he then proves in various ways. Firstly, creation has a voice and proclaims that there is power which has a spring in itself and that power is God's. But man kept not in his place, remained not subject to that eternal power and God. Every part of creation around us still has this voice, a voice in direct contrast with that which man's ways and walk proclaims; for man's ways and walk do not declare man's owning that God is the source and end of his life and being (19-21); secondly, idolatry followed and man degraded himself, as to God and his fellows, below the brutes of the earth (22-32); thirdly, men on whom God forced the light of right and wrong, used this knowledge not for self-humiliation and correction, but for self-exaltation above their fellows. " We know and are able to condemn you " is a fearful word from one who is a hearer but not also a doer of God's righteous will, while on his way up to the judgment of the great white throne. To teach another and set at naught one's own teaching; to prohibit theft and be a thief; for the adulterer to prohibit adultery; the sacrilegious man, idolatry, etc., etc is what, but hypocrisy. And how distinctly, does the apostle's resume of the state inward and outward of man, prove that he knew of no foundation in man for acceptance before God, as he—writes. Chapter 3:9, " We have before -proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no,, not one; there is none that un derstandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is: none that doeth good, no, not one.. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongue they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood.; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known; there is no fear of God before their eyes,. Now we know that what things -soever the law saith„ it saith to them who are under the -law that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.".
If by the law is the knowledge of sin, what remains for man in himself to trust to? Creation, in its, origin and the order it observes, points to One: whom man honors not, and it condemns him.. History, the expression of Man's conduct toward God in His patience and pro- violence and government of man, of man on the earth, condemns him, Can man bring out of himself an obedience if God give him a standard of right and wrong? No-the great thing which such standard can do for him, is to give him: the knowledge of sin..; knowledge of his need, as a ruined creature, of something clean out- side and above that which is found in the fields of creation, Providence and government of God around him, and of what is within himself too.
Secondly, the only remedy for- man under these circumstances is in God, God's righteousness without, man's works,: even that which is by faith of Jesus. Christ, which is towards all„ and is upon all them that believe: Note how these words "all have sinned" (ver. 123); "justified freely by His grace, through redemption which is in Christ-Jesus" (ver. 24):; " for the' remission of sins that are, past through the forbearance of. God " (yen: 25); " to declare his righteousness that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth ". (ver. 2G), each and all of them proclaim mercy on God's- part. Just so (Chapter iv., 3) " Abraham believed God,, and it was counted unto him for righteousness„" followed by that fine statement of Paul, " Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness " (ver. 4 and 5). And not only so, but David after his failure rejoiced " in the blessedness of the man unto whom, God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." And this way was according to God as a promise-maker, through faith (ver. 13), by grace that it might be sure (ver. 16): of God who quickens the dead, and speaks of things which are not as though they were (ver. 17). " Now, what he has promised, He is able also to perform " (ver. 21). And faith knows this and stays upon it. Now, if any man say " Amen " to God's promises, God will say " Amen " to the establishment of that man in them. For " these things were written about not for Abraham's sake only, but for us also, to whom it shall be reckoned, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from, the dead."
The fifth chapter shows how we have peace with God consequent upon justification by-faith, and rejoice in hope of sharing God's glory; how all of this life's troubles too are made to pay tribute to us; how the Spirit,, which is given to us, fills our hearts with. God's love. We were without strength, ungodly, sinners, enemies—when. Christ died for us; but now, reconciled by His death, we count upon being saved by His life, and we rejoice in God through Jesus Christ; and gladly do we own the contrast between the first Adam, who lost everything through disobedience, and the last Adam who won everything through obedience: " Grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus. Christ."
The sixth, chapter gives us thee divine, way by which.
God welds into one the fortunes of the sinner that believes and of the Savior that died and rose again from the dead; and how, if God reckons that the Savior died in my stead and that thus I am clear of guilt and dead to sin, I am to reckon it so too and am to cease from sinning and to live unto God. Dead to the penalty, I am to be dead to the power,—-of sin.
The seventh chapter takes up afresh the question of law and shows how Paul judged that the only thing it could do for a man who was under it, was to convince him of his own utter helplessness. In the case which he portrays as under it, what was reaped from it? Great gleanings, (ver. 5) the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death: that was one lesson. A second was, " That I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet (or lust)" (ver. 7). Then came a third benefit, the discovery that "sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence (or lust). For without the law sin was dead" (ver. 8). Another discovery was, that " when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (ver. 9). Then again (ver. 10), "the commandment which was to life, I found to be unto death." This taught him the deceivableness of his sinful self: " For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me." And poor comfort was it to find that, all the while, " the law was holy and the commandment holy and just and good." But the application of this good thing to him made the sin that was in him to be exceeding sinful; and laid home upon him the truth that he was carnal, sold under sin. And what a picture of man's powerlessness is then given! Doing what I allow not. What I would that do I not. What I hate that do I. The law thus proved that sin was in the man that it was over. Sin; though there might be a good will, yet no power to perform. " For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not that I do." Sin my tyrant, despising all my wishes and all my dreads, and leading me captive! What a picture of the medicinal effects of the law when placed upon a man! Well might He cry out: " O wretched man that I am I who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" Now note it, here the law takes notice of what a man should be before God. Quite right that: but if applied to a sinner, it brings out sin and self to light in every varied way. The I, a mountainous I (of the party under the law in that seventh chapter of Romans), is upwards of forty times heard to groan and cry out. But not till brought to the sense of wretchedness, and to cry out in despair, Who can save me from myself!-can it say, " I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Yes; and there is balm in that Jesus Christ our Lord, to answer and set aside forever all the wretched experience of self-writhing under law and its requirements.
The eighth chapter gives us the charter of privileges provided for those who own God's mercy as their only wellspring of blessing. Beginning with " no condemnation," it ends with " no separation." No condemnation in Christ, though we be still in the body down here; for He who loves us, died for us; no feeling of condemnation, if our obedience is after the spirit and not after the flesh, for we have the Spirit of God and of Christ: our life is there, and we know it, and that all about us is death. Obedience to our God and Father we render, knowing that we are His sons and heirs, co-heirs together with Christ,-therefore, we suffer now and look to be glorified hereafter. Our blessing is now by faith and in the Spirit. But our external bodies too will be glorified. Now, till then, the Spirit helps our infirmities, our ignorance-is a Spirit of intercession in us; One, as to whom we know that He who on high searches our hearts, thoroughly understands them. And we know too that all things work together for good to us. Called of God according to His purpose, His foreknowledge of us and predestination to be conformed to the image of His Son (that. He might be the firstborn among many brethren), is our comfort. "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (ver. 30). So we can say, "God for us, who against us?" The free gift of His own Son for us secures His giving us all things. Who shall lay charge against the choice ones of God? God is the justifier. Who the condemner? Christ died.-; yea, risen, is at God's right -hand in heaven, interceding for us. If Christ who is above loves us, shall any circumstance down here-whether arising from a physical world out of order or from men that hate Christ separate us from the love which He has to us? No: we voluntarily have taken up all that He had to bear. If sheep for the slaughter on the one hand, on the other we are in all such things more than conquerors through Him that loved -us. And this the rather because we know, the world of eternity being opened to us (a larger sphere than what this earth presents to us) (ver. 37 and 38), no creature is able to separate us from God's love to us which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.. There is no separation.
Thirdly, chaps 9, 10, 11 give us the instruction that the mercy presented as the only portion for any individual in the earlier chapters is the root of all God's past, present, or future dealings in blessing with man, when dealt with and blessed in The mass upon the earth.—Gathered now as individuals upon the earth, our massing in company is by faith, to the person of Christ in heaven. Christ, the head of the new creation, is now in heaven; we, as parts of it now, will all shortly be there too. Inspirit we are there, now already. But Israel was as a nation blessed upon earth, and will be blessed upon earth hereafter; and, besides our individual heavenly calling and faith in an' ascended, glorified Lord, Gentiles now hear of mercy and are of the house of God down here upon earth; and when the nation Israel is finally blessed, the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. We find these massed companies, blessed on earth, to be looked at in these three chapters.
Why was Israel made the channel of God's testimony here upon earth?
Why were the oracles of God committed unto them? (Chapter 3:2)
Why were they Israelites; why-had-they the adoption and the glory and the covenant and the giving of the law and the service an d the promises? How came they to be connected with the family of which as concerning the flesh Christ came? They were not all the children of Abraham because they were his descendants? All had the promises in their hands, though all Were not the children of the promise.." God was so pleased to bless them," is the only answer which I can give. And " mercy-His only plea." But mercy for' time is not always among men mercy for eternity, and so He who would have a seed for eternity had to act, in His own right and title, and to secure an eternally blessed people in Isaac and in Jacob. " For- He saith to Moses I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I- will have compassion" (Chapter 9:15). Yes, that is it: there is a God who has a right to do as He wills, and will do as He likes, -Satan and a wicked world and sinful man, notwithstanding. Or is God the only Being that may not act? Is He the only one that has no right to please Himself,-to do His own pleasure, to act according to His own thoughts? Let man now approve, or let man now disapprove, He chose to create this world and to make and set man on it. And He has chosen through nigh six thousand years to bear, with a patience altogether divine, man's incessant, -unmendably bad manners; and He chose Himself to come as Son of man into the world, and He means in the end to reckon with man and to judge him for all his high thoughts—and his ungodliness.. The verse I have cited sets His dealings with the nation Israel of old in a peculiarly striking light. " He saith to Moses, I will have Mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whom I will have compassion." Israel had just cast God off- and made a calf (with Aaron's help) out of the trumpery and finery of the women, their ear-rings, etc.;—a calf of gold; had declared " These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To-morrow is a feast to the Lord ' (Ex. 32:4,54And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 5And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord. (Exodus 32:4‑5)). This was the occasion, when on Moses's intercession with the Lord, the Lord says, " I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy " (Ex. 33:1919And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (Exodus 33:19)).
Why did the. Lord not act upon what He had said to Moses (Chapter xxxii., 9) " Let me alone, that my Wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation?" -why this change? Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? " I will," if He says it, who can say unto Him, What doest Thou? "I will to whom I will,- and I will on whom I will." ‘Tis blessed to know there is One that can and will and does say " I will,." and His " I will " stands firm and sure. He knew what His own grace and mercy and compassion prompted Him to do, and He here chose to let it flow out. But mark how Israel, about whom He chose in His absolutism and uncontrollable will so to speak, had lost itself everything, made shipwreck of all that had been entrusted to them, were a wreck themselves;-they had made other gods and danced and feasted before them. Jehovah had a right to act as He pleased, notwithstanding their sin, and He chose to act according to His own nature and to take care of His own character; so He said, " I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whom I will have compassion"; consequently, Israel was not cut off, and He did not make a nation out of Moses.
Satan is not almighty; he cannot say, " I will," and his word stand fast. Otherwise universal destruction and universal delusion would be our portion. But God is almighty, and mercy and compassion are in His character, and He says " I will," and mercy and compassion are ours; and if made ours in Christ Jesus, then ours for eternity; for in Him is no variableness, nor the shadow of a turn. I do see and feel that all my blessing hinges upon this absolutism of God and His having a character of His own on which He, naturally enough, chooses to act and in which He has been pleased to act to me-ward, and upon which He has made me to trust and think and hope that He is acting as to myself. And mark it, too, if His mercy and His compassion are the ground of the soul's peace, the soul owns to demerit in itself.
And Paul stops not with the broad statement of the principle, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion "; but makes the wholesome deduction an application to individuals: " So then' it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Chapter 9:16). What fountain in itself can a creature finite and ruined have? Is not God the only spring of every good gift? Did He not do the work of Christ according to His own plan and wisdom and in spite of man? Has not Christ been sitting eighteen hundred years in heaven before I was born? Was there not mercy in Him when I thought only of what I could do to please (not God but) myself? Was He not determined to break down all my thoughts of my power and of my might, and make me a debtor to mercy? And did He not do this, ere ever I was willing or running at all. It is not that willing and running are bad things they are Christ's gifts to all his people but the question is Do they come out of the old Adam nature or from Christ Himself? An absolute God, full of mercy is the refuge of a poor sinner. He that has fled to Him will never find fault with His absolute " I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whom I will have compassion." If on the contrary men stand upon their rights and their own power, let them tremble. God is not mocked. Paul shows us that the absolutism of God, when resisted by proud man, is irresistible in judgment. If men will not have God and mercy,-they may find like Pharaoh that they have absolute judgment (read Rom. 9:17-2217For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? 22What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: (Romans 9:17‑22)). It is what man's " I will" when it comes into collision with a despised God's "I will" leads too. Better, surely, for a rebel creature that God should be occupied and guided by His own goodness, and not be guided with the badness of the creature, than that the rebellion of the creature should be the turning point, as the sinner wishes of the conduct of the Creator.
But if Paul accounts for Israel's having been spared of God, through His mercy, the nation stood down here upon earth, as all does that is on earth, on trial; and when it had failed down here, mercy took a larger sphere.
" And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he bath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles" (ver. 23, 24). " That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith" (ver. 30).
In chapter 10 He shows how all is of mercy,-the door open to "whosoever believeth " (ver. 11),-to "whosoever shall call upon the name, of the Lord" (ver. 13); there is no difference when all turns upon this, " The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him " (ver. 12). Yet, thus, the Gentile comes in, upon this no difference ground; but comes in not so as to exclude the Jew on the one hand, for there is no difference, nor on the other hand necessarily into a company whose blessing will be more permanent than was the blessing of Israel as a nation; for there is, in this also, no difference. God takes up a position of showing mercy, of delighting in mercy in both cases; and His taking that position toward men on earth forms a company. But then in both cases He, at least, is truthful and means what He says; in this too there is no difference. He will have mercy. And this means not only that He will be upon the ground of mercy, but that He will have man also to be upon the ground of mercy. If He will give, man must receive; if He take mercy as the ground of His action towards man, man that comes to rejoice in the door opened to him of association with God, must know himself also to be upon the ground of mercy. God's position of being upon the ground of mercy towards Israel, was taken; and they were a people who had the oracles of God and the privileges of being His nation. When they would not be upon the ground of mercy themselves, and would not have the God of mercy (whom they crucified in Christ Jesus) among them upon earth, nor own Him afterward in heaven, when on Pentecost He proclaimed mercy "beginning at Jerusalem," they were set aside; and Himself in heaven (made Lord and Christ, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven) became a new position taken by God for showing mercy to "whosoever should call upon the name of the Lord." But with this new position a new company was formed, and to it the oracles of God were committed, a house of God upon earth. What lay at the bottom of all this was mercy on God's part. But as before this, if the blessing is to be permanent it supposes that he that is blessed takes the ground of being upon and living upon mercy. If God is showing from heaven mercy now, I, to be really blessed must also, my own self, stand upon and act upon mercy. For God here too is real. He means not only to make a show of mercy but to give it; and if He gives there must be (His name be praised-His own glory needs it and He will secure it and make it good) a receiver too of mercy.To see that God has taken a new position, that it is one open to the sinner, to every sinner that believes, for there is no difference whatsoever, is good news indeed; to be able to say " And I stand connected with that God and with that salvation " is blessed. But we must receive into our own souls and for our own selves that mercy, stand upon it, live under it and from it, if there is to be lasting blessing. Reader, can you say, " God, thou knowest that Thy mercy by. Christ Jesus dwells in my mind and that I love it and glory in it and try to live as one that has found it. Mercy is behind me as to my past; mercy is with me and in me as to my present; mercy is my hope as to all that is before me.' These are solemn truths: for Chapter 11 shows us why the nation Israel was cut off. They walked not in mercy's path. " Elias had to make intercession to God against Israel (for whom Moses had interceded!) saying, Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life" (ver. 3). The restraining power of God's hand had however, unknown to the prophet, been acting. " But what said the answer of God to him?" " I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal." What a blessed thing it is that the same One who said to Moses, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion upon whom I will have compassion," (at a time when Moses stood all alone for God) should have reserved, at a time when Elias thought he was left alone, seven thousand men. And why? It was the proof at once of His power and of His love of mercy. But the self-confident mass who gave the character and stamp of things even to the eye and mind of an Elias,-they stood for themselves and for their competency and their ability to obtain righteousness by their own works. And where, I pray you, is the conscience and mind and heart of a ruined sinner who is occupied with what " / can, and I will, and I mean to do "? Is such an one set in mercy, a receiver of it, glorying in it and living in and from it? "I and my works among men and my difference from other men "-is it the same thing as " God's mercy to me the chiefest of sinners." And what if God really does delight in mercy-has set Himself for a display of mercy, and that a stream of mercy flows forth and they who profess to be connected with God and His throne and possessors of the privileges of being associated with Him,-what I say, if such lie and do not the truth; will not stand for mercy in and from God to man a ruined sinner, but claim and wait for the righteous judgment of God upon human works"? This was the case with Israel of old, in Elias's, in David's, in the Lord's, in Paul's days. Must God give up His mercy, or take a new position for Himself, and while carrying to it all that would have mercy, leave behind to providential judgments all that despised His mercy? That is: Is God, or is sinful man to take the lead, to have the upper hand, to rule? Blessed be God I though man tried, instigated by Satan, to put God out of the way, and killed the Son lest the Romans " should come and take us away," they in their blindness and dark sightedness were but putting forward God's mercy. They were giving the proof that mercy had no place in them, when they killed the Prince of life; and so they were justifying God's departure from themselves, yea, provoking Him to judge them according to their boasted measure of self-righteousness; and, so far as in them lay, too, they were thrusting Him whom they murdered into the new place, the new position which God would take; for Christ on earth was Messiah to Israel. Christ earth, rejected, heaven-welcomed, is Lord and Christ for " whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord." The sphere of Israel a nation on earth had rejected, renounced and denounced mercy: Alas! for it, then and there. But, blessed be God, mercy was as dear to Him as ever. -He felt that Israel's sphere was not large enough -for. Him for the display of—His mercy. Little was the mountain from which and small the sphere to which, through Moses' intercession, He had proclaimed mercy. Great the height of His throne in heaven and wide the range of the sphere to every human being under heaven, to whom mercy was now to be proclaimed, beginning at Jerusalem. And, not only so, but in the outsounding of mercy in this larger sphere, He thought to provoke Israel, that cared not for mercy, to emulation. What a love of mercy is His! " Have they stumbled that they should fall? God- forbid: but through their fall salvation is come unto the' Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness (ver. 11, 12)?" " For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead (ver. 13)?" Their fall was not of God that the nation should be lost; but that, they removed for a time, salvation might be proclaimed to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. If their removal from the place of honor for a time be for the enriching of a larger circle, what blessing will pertain to that larger circle when all the fullness of Israel's blessing is set forth? God's delight in mercy led Him to take a new position with such thoughts in His mind. How everything as to the revelation of mercy and the making of it good to any and in any, in every position which the God of mercy has taken, all depends upon Himself, His absolute power' and His delight in mercy! And this as surely for eternity as for time!
But what as to this new position taken by God, and what as -to the position of those that gather down here under the preaching of it? are either of them permanent? God's mercy is permanent: that is clear. The position of God bidding His Son sit in heaven until He makes His foes to be His footstool, is not to those who count the long suffering of God to be salvation His permanent' one; it is until. Until what? Until He make His foes to be His footstool. Until the Father bids the Son to rise up and fetch the adopted children to His house on high (John 14), to fetch the Church which is to be the Bride, the Lamb's wife, in' heaven,-to claim the land of Israel that it may be Beulah, married to Jehovah, and that from the City Jehovah-Shammah, the knowledge' of the'glory of the Lord may flow out to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. And Paul puts before us the other side of this truth, viz., Gentiles grafted into the channel of testimony and fruit-bearing down here on earth for a time (see -Rom. 12:17-25)
The Gentiles had been of a wild olive tree, but were made to partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree (ver. 17). What brought them there? God's delight in mercy. In mercy they might boast then, but not against the branches, when upon a root which was not theirs by nature. Fear, surely, becomes one who is brought into a place of responsibility out of which, for failure, another has been removed; and not high-mindedness. It is a place of responsibility and in time, and God is a righteous judge. If He spared not the natural branches, will He spare those who were made, because of the failure of these to be their supplanters? No: He is good, for He stands for mercy. But He does stand for mercy, and therefore He is determined and cuts off whatever receives not, abides not in, mercy. If He cut them off and grafted us in, why should He not cut us off and graff them in again if we stand not for mercy? They have the birthright in their favor, and the root is called by their name. If the Church, as the house of God down here, had received and stood, and walked and hoped in mercy. it would never be removed, shaken, cut off; but mercy, righteous judgment would find another way of fulfilling His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Israel. But Roman and Greek churches, and all Protestant churches too, have failed, utterly failed in responsibility as to holding and living in and hoping in mercy, and nothing but mercy. is this my hard-hearted thought—or God's? God's it is most surely, who also gave it to Paul that he and all other true servants of God, might not be overwhelmed in seeing that as man had failed upon earth from Eden down to Pentecost, in every responsibility' put into his own hands to keep,—so would it be again from Pentecost onward. God has no faith in man's competency, or wisdom, or energy or faithfulness. " For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." Then shall Israel, as a whole nation, be saved: " as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (ver. 26). For there is a covenant with them to this effect, when He shall take away their sins. Enemies they were to the gospel in its present form- and allowed to be so, that mercy's voice might sound out in the wider circuit of " whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord." But the promises to the fathers remain unfulfilled as yet, and God is true and knows not the shadow of a turn. Israel was chosen to be the earth's center of blessing, and endowed and called thereto. And though generations of them have refused to have this place upon the ground of mercy, this will not hinder the nation as a nation having it hereafter, "for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (ver. 29). God is absolute, and He stands for mercy to the nation Israel. The Gentiles once did not know God so as to be able to believe in Him; when Israel disbelieved in mercy, the Gentiles obtained mercy; Israel disbelieved and rebelled against mercy to the Gentiles; God left them to their unbelief and to the judgments consequent thereon, that they might learn that they could not do without mercy (ver. 30, 31). For God has shut them up in their unbelief, left them to their own way, that so when He comes to bless them it may be clear to all that the blessing flows upon the ground, is received too upon the ground of mercy-pure, free, unmixed mercy.
The present house of God upon earth has been the birth-place of many a soul for heaven, part of the family of God the Father, part of that body of which Christ is the head: they shall all be removed to heaven. But the house on earth committed to man's building and care, man has defiled and it will come into judgment. And the eternal lover of mercy will return to Israel and mercy's streams shall flow forth thence to the uttermost parts of the earth, even to the extern nations-those beyond the four Gentile dynasties, and be among them in power too. The language of Paul, when he wrote on these things, well becomes us. " O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable his judgments, and his ways past finding out" (ver, 33). And then he goes on with thoughts expressive of his own sense of the littleness of man; thoughts well calculated to make us see our own littleness. What searching questions these: " For who hath known the mind of the Lord?
" Or who hath been His counselor?
" Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?" Not I, surely each one must say,-
" For OF Him, and THROUGH Him, and TO Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen" (ver. 33-36).
Into the fourth division of the Epistle to the Romans, it is not my intention at present to enter: I merely give the opening of it as confirming what I have said about the place that mercy holds in God's dealings, as set forth now, and as presented in this epistle.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service " (Chapter 12:1). But the whole of this portion (from Chapter 12:1, to the end of the epistle) is but the deduction of the fruits natural to the reception of the mercy and mercies referred to in the preceding parts -of the epistle. And, surely, the close of this part ought ever to be remembered by us:
" Now to him that is of power to stablish you," let us mark it well, " Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel and the Preaching, of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but is manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets [or by prophetic-scripture], according to the commandment of the ever—lasting God, made known to all nations FOR THE, OBEDIENCE of faith: to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen" (xvi. 25-27).
And can any man who has rejoiced in mercy himself and known its suitability to man's ruined and lost condition, for a moment think that the practical life of persons professing' Christianity now-a-days, is the fruit of their having tasted mercy? Can he whose heart has had to challenge itself in the fear of the Lord, not know what the result of all the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye,, and the pride of life which now characterize Christianity (so called) must be? Or could any one that counts mercy to be a priceless treasure wish the present state of things to continue, or mercy to be limited to its present bounds and not to be, even through judgment, presented in a more boundlessly extensive way, and that too in man's day?.
To return now to my thesis, "But God who is rich in mercy," I would call attention to the contrasts in the context which led to the introduction of the little word,." But."
In the middle of the first chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians (ver. 15), Paul turns to the blessings which grace had provided for the saints in Christ Jesus, and, as it were, draws aside the curtain and shows us the Son of man, the faithful servant of God, seated in heaven in all His present glory. Raised from the dead and set at God's right hand in heavenly places,-exalted above every power and name named in this age or that which is to come,-everything put under His feet and Himself made head of a body, for which He not only uses His power over all things, but which He himself fills in every part! What glory like that, all the excellency of God's ways set forth by Him. All the beauty of. God seen in Him. In contrast to this come the place and the state in which those; now the members of His all glorious body, were found, dead in trespasses and sins; their movement then, according to the routine of a place  set up for sinners to be happy in without God,, out of His presence, the energy then working in them, that of the prince of the power of the air, spirit that energizes in the children of disobedience. Such had been these Ephesians to whom he wrote. Had he been better? no: lusts of the flesh, lusts of the flesh and of the mind, had characterized the Jews-children of wrath even as others (Chapter 2:13); what a contrast! Well might he introduce here the word " But." " But God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins.-"And mark well here, the height of blessedness and glory to which we were raised and in which set, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised up together, and made sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." If anything could add to this blessing so freely given, bestowed in so divine a way, in Christ Jesus,-it would be the explanation which follows of an object which was accomplished, to say the least, by God in so doing. For I like not to speak of it as His motive; that I suppose was higher still. But one object which was given was, "That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus " (ver. 7).
" For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God bath before ordained (or prepared, -works worthy of our being, each one, members of that body, or which Christ is the glorified head) that we should walk in them " (ver. 10).
Thus our creature working, to get into the place of acceptance and blessing, is excluded:-" We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus," that on the one hand; and on the other, the abuse of mercy and grace is guarded against, for our creation in Christ Jesus, is " unto good works," of a kind prepared by God that we should walk in them.
G. V. W.