A sense of mercy, and the privilege of Divine teaching, were the earnest of the Lord's salvation, for which the eyes of his servant were failing, and for which he was waiting in dependence upon the sure word of His righteousness. And indeed these two wants daily press upon every servant of God as matter for earnest supplication. Both are intimately connected. A deeper sense of mercy will bind us more strongly to His statutes; while a more spiritual teaching in the statutes will humble us in a sense of sin, and consequent need of mercy. As it respects the first—if there is a sinner upon the earth, who needs the special mercy of God, it is His own servant. For as the Lord sees abundantly more excellence in his feeblest desire, than in the professor's most splendid external duties; so He sees far more sinfulness and provocation in the workings of his sin, than in the palpably defective services of professors, or in the open transgression of the wicked of the earth. Let him scrutinize his motives, thoughts, and affections, even in his moments of nearest and happiest approach unto his God; and he will find such defilement cleaving to every offering, with all the aggravations of mercy, light, and knowledge, given, that the confession of his soul, when comparing himself with his fellow-sinners, will be, "Of whom I am chief." And therefore, as a servant of God, I can only come before Him upon the ground of mercy. For my best performances I need an immeasurable world of mercy—pardoning—saving—everlasting mercy; and yet by the blood of Jesus I dare to plead—Deal with Your servant according unto Your mercy.
But then I am ignorant as well as guilty; and yet I dare not pray for teaching—much and hourly as I need it, until I have afresh obtained mercy. These two blessings lead me at once to the foundation of the gospel—in the work of Christ, and the work of the Spirit—mercy flowing from the blood of the Son—teaching from the office of the Spirit. Mercy is the first blessing, not only in point of importance, but in point of order. I must know the Lord as a Savior, before I can go to Him with any confidence to be my teacher. But when once I have found acceptance for my petition—Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy—my way will be opened to enlarge my petition—yes, once and again to repeat it—Teach me Your statutes. Give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies—that I may know with intelligent conviction; walk, yes, "run in the way of Your commandments" with "an enlarged heart." For let me never forget, that I am "redeemed from the curse" only—not from the service "of the law"—yes, redeemed from its curse, that I may be bound to its service. And does not my especial relation to my God as His servant, furnish me with a plea for His acceptance? For when this "earth is full of His mercy"—much more may I, as belonging to His house, plead for the special mercy of His teaching—His own covenant promise—so needful for His servant, who desires to know, that he may do, His will.
But if I am the Lord's servant, how did I become so? Time was (let me be ashamed and confounded at the remembrance of it) when I was engaged for another master, and in another service. But His sovereign grace called me from the dominion of sin—from the chains of Satan—from the bondage of the world, and drew me to Himself. "His I am—and Him I serve." His service is my highest privilege: His reward of grace is my glorious hope. "If any man serve Me," says my Master, "let him follow Me: and where I am, there shall also My servant be. If any man serve Me, him will My Father honor." As His servant, therefore, I cast myself with confidence upon His mercy, and expect to be dealt with according to that mercy. No—I shall be denied nothing that I "ask according to His will." For He has condescended to call me—not His servant, but "his friend"—yes more, to call himself "my brother."
Lord! You have showed me this great favor and grace, to make me Your servant. I would be Yours forever. I love Your service too well to wish to change it; yet must I mourn over my dullness, my backwardness in doing Your will, and walking in Your way. Oh! teach me Your statutes more clearly, more experimentally! verse_numberGive me understanding to discern their heavenly sweetness and their holy liberty, that I may live in a more simple and devoted obedience to them, until I come to see Your face, and to be Your servant in Your heavenly temple, "no more to go out."
"Deal with your servant according unto your mercy." Here he recollects himself: although before men he was so clear that he could challenge the word of righteousness, yet before the Lord, as his servant, he felt that he must appeal to mercy. We feel safest here. Our heart has more rest in the cry, "God be merciful to me," than in appealing to justice. It is well to be able to say, "I have done judgment and justice," and then to add, in all lowliness, yet "deal with your servant according unto your mercy." The title of servant covers a plea; a master should clear the character of his servant if he be falsely accused, and rescue him from those who would oppress him; and, moreover, the master should show mercy to a servant, even if he deal severely with a stranger. The Lord condescendingly deals, or has communications with, his servants, not spurning them, but communing with them; and this he does in a tender and merciful way, for in any other form of dealing we should be crushed into the dust. "And teach me your statutes." This will be one way of dealing with us in mercy. We may expect a master to teach his own servant the meaning of his own orders. Yet since our ignorance frequently arises from our sinful stupidity, it is great mercy on God's part that he condescends to instruct us in his commands. For our ruler to become our teacher is an act of great grace, for which we cannot be too grateful. Among our mercies this is one of the choicest.