Sin is no light trouble to the man of God. Mercy, therefore, is to him no common blessing. Never can he have—never can he ask, enough. Hence his repeated cries. Mercy brought him out of sin and misery. Mercy keeps—holds him on—assures him to the end. Every blessing comes in the way of mercy. The most careful walker according to the gospel rule, needs mercy. The elect are "vessels of mercy"—filled up to the brim with mercy. The crown of glory at last is received at the hands of mercy.
The distinguishing character of God is, that His mercies are tender mercies—a father's pitying—yearning mercies. When His returning prodigal expected probably upbraiding looks, if not a frown of banishment, how did these tender mercies bury, not only his sins, but also his very confessions in the depths of the sea, and welcome him without a cloud to his forsaken home! The same tender considerations put away from His children all anxiety respecting "what they shall eat, or what they shall drink, or wherewithal they shall be clothed. As a Father He also "chastens" them, "he suffers their manners"—He "spares them, as a man spares his own son that serves him;" and, finally, He determines respecting each of them by an act of sovereign power, "You shall call Me, My Father, and shall not depart from Me." In a yet more endearing character He speaks, "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you. They may forget; yet will I not forget You."
Yet have we no just apprehension of these tender mercies, unless they come to us. In the midst of the wide distribution, let me claim my interest. Let them come to me. Praised be God! the way is open to me. The mere report is unfruitful. I cannot speak of them with glow and unction. The application of them is life—not the mere breathing of spiritual existence, but the life of my life—the living principle of devotedness and enjoyment—living to and for God in every form and sphere, in every hour and action of the day; my feebleness becoming strength in the Lord; "walking up and down in His name." This truly is "reigning in life;" rising to more of its honor and dignity, and reaching forth to more of its excellence and happiness.
But let us not lose sight of the abundant overflowing spring, from which our life is maintained. "In Christ was life;" and He "came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly." There can be, therefore, no exercises of life without a vital union to Christ—the source of life. Shall we then give up the hope of believing in Christ, until we feel the influence of this spiritual principle? This would be indeed like refusing to abide in the vine, until we could bring forth fruit; whereas the branch, while separated from the vine, must ever be fruitless and withered. We must receive life from Christ, not bring it to Him. Faith implants us in Him; and "Christ dwelling in the heart by faith" becomes the life of the soul, animating it in the ways of God.
This life, therefore, will manifest itself in delight in God's law. We shall not be satisfied to live upon the mere surface of the gospel (which is barren and unproductive, as any other surface, in spiritual usefulness), but we shall search into its hidden treasures, and draw forth its real life and consolation. This "delight" will furnish a plea for our use at the throne of grace. 'If this is the fruit and acting of the life of Your own implanting, Lord! cherish it. Let me live by the influence of Your tender mercies. I venture to plead my delight in Your law, as an evidence of my adoption into Your family. And, therefore, I would renew my plea and my petition—Let Your tender mercies come to me, that my life may be not only existence, but enjoyment—the beginning, the earnest, of the everlasting life and bliss of heaven.'
"Let your tender mercies come unto me, that I may live." He was so hard pressed that he was at death's door if God did not support him. He needed not only mercy, but "mercies," and these must be of a very gracious and considerate kind, even "tender mercies," for he was sore with his wounds. These gentle favors must be of the Lord's giving, for nothing less would suffice; and they must "come" all the way to the sufferer's heart, for he was not able to journey after them; all he could do was to sigh out, "Oh that they would come"! If deliverance did not soon come, he felt ready to expire; and yet he told us but a verse or so ago that he hoped in God's word: how true it is that hope lives on when death seems written on all besides! A heathen said, while I breathe I hope; but the Christian can say, even when I expire I still expect the blessing. Yet no true child of God can live without the tender mercy of the Lord; it is death to him to be under God's displeasure. Notice, again, the happy combination of the words of our English version. Was there ever a sweeter sound than this—"tender mercies"? He who has been grievously afflicted, and yet tenderly succored, is the only man who knows the meaning of such choice language.
How truly we live when tender mercy comes to us! Then we do not merely exist, but live; we are lively, full of life, vivacious, and vigorous. We know not what life is until we know God. Some are said to die by the visitation of God, but we live by it.
"For your law is my delight." O blessed faith! He is no mean believer who rejoices in the law even when its broken precepts cause him to suffer. To delight in the word when it rebukes us, is proof that we are profiting under it. Surely this is a plea which will prevail with God, however bitter our griefs may be; if we still delight in the law of the Lord he cannot let us die, he must and will cast a tender look upon us, and comfort our hearts.