William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

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The Tender Mercies Of God


by Edward Griffin


"I will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord and the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness
towards the house of Israel which he hath bestowed on them, according to his
mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses." Isaiah 63:7.
The prophet, when he uttered these words, appeared to labor under an ineffable
sense of the tender mercies and loving kindnesses of his God. He had been
contemplating the wrath with which God would one day visit Edom when he should
come to deliver his people from her oppressions. Immediately he raises an
interesting contrast and sets before his eyes God's "great goodness towards the
house of Israel" in loosing their Egyptian bonds and conducting them through the
wilderness. In this type as through a glass, he discovered the wondrous love
which redeems the Church from more oppressive chains, and supports her in her
journey to the heavenly rest. Under this view he seemed transported, and in his
rapture exclaimed, "I will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord and the
praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the
great goodness towards the house of Israel which he hath bestowed on them,
according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving
kindnesses."

Though we should not raise our eyes to the exalted love which shines in the
Gospel, still we should have abundant reason to mention the loving kindnesses of
the Lord. Without any adviser or helper he introduced us to rational existence,
and raised us to intellectual enjoyment. By his unceasing care, that existence
is hourly supported. Our table is furnished and our raiment supplied by his
benign hand. We are blest with pleasant habitations and possessions; we enjoy
the delights of refined society, the blessings of friendship, and the life and
happiness of our friends. Our health is sustained by a thousand minute and
constantly repeated touches of his hand to the various parts of our complicated
machine. All the pleasures of imagination, of memory, of hope, of sympathy, and
of sense; all the magic charms which play on nature's face, are the gifts of his
bounteous hand. By his watchful care we are protected from countless visible and
unseen dangers. By innumerable impressions made on our animal spirits by his
careful touch, we are put in tone to enjoy the objects around us. More numerous
are his mercies than the stars which look out of heaven. On no section of our
life,on no point of nature's works,scarcely on a circumstance in our relations
to society, can we fix our eyes, without seeing "the loving kindnesses of the
Lord." But when we lift our thoughts to his "great goodness towards the house of
Israel," our souls faint under the labor of expressing the praise we owe.
Redeeming grace most fully displays the richness and extent of his loving
kindnesses; redeeming grace was the theme which transported the author of our
text; and redeeming grace shall be the subject of this discourse.

To discover the heights or to fathom the depths of this grace, exceeds the power
of men or angels; yet the view perhaps may be enlightened by some of the
following reflections.

In purposing and planning the great work of redemption, the Eternal Mind was
self-moved, uncounselled, unsolicited. No angel interceded or advised; no man by
his prayers or tears excited pity. Before men or angels had existence, the
purpose was fixed and the plan was formed by boundless love, unmoved, unasked,
untempted by any thing without but the foreseen miseries of a perishing world.
This love was wholly disinterested, having no reward in view but the pleasure of
doing good. What other recompense could God expect from creatures who have
nothing to give but what they receive? What other reward could eternal
self-sufficience need?

This love is still more sublime considered as acting towards inferiors. When
love is not the most pure, we daily see, it will overlook those who have no
eminence to engage respect. On this account the condescending regard which some
benevolent prince may pay to the poor and forsaken, is peculiarly affecting.
What then shall we say when we behold Infinite Majesty descending to such tender
concern for dust and ashes?

Redeeming love is still more wonderful as exercised towards enemies; towards
those who could reject the offered salvation,who were not to be moved by all
the entreaties of heaven,and who had malice enough to murder the Author of life
in the very act of bringing it to them.

This love appears altogether astonishing when we consider the greatness of the
sacrifice it made. That God himself, (infinite, eternal, and self-sufficient as
he was,) should bring himself down to a mortal form; that he who made the
heavens should descend from among the adorations of angels to assume the form of
a servant and to receive the spittings of Roman soldiers; that he should
exchange the quiet of eternal repose for a laborious life, the abodes of
inaccessible light for the degrading manger,the society of the Father and
Spirit for that of illiterate fishermen,the heights of infinite bliss for the
agonies of Gethsemane and Golgotha;and all to atone for abuses which he himself
had received from men; fixes angels in astonishment and rivets their eyes to him
who still bears the prints of the nails and the spear. That this divine Sufferer
did not recede, but remained immovable in his purpose in a near view of his
agonies; that he did not strike and rivet his insulting murderers to the centre,
but spent his expiring breath in prayer for their life; evinces, not love only,
but love unconquerable.

The extent of redeeming love further appears in the magnitude of the blessings
which it intended for a ruined race. It stooped to catch a falling world; to
snatch them from eternal flames to the transports of immortal life,from
everlasting contempt to be "kings and priests" forever "unto God" to raise them
from the depravity of sin to the purity of the divine image,from a dungeon to
the radiance of heaven,from the society of devils to communion with
angels,from the blasphemies of hell to the songs of paradise,from universal
destitution to inherit all riches,to be sons and heirs of God, members of the
Redeemer's body,to live in his family and heart, and forever to expand in the
regions of light and life.

This mercy is heightened by the fact that the Saviour is so necessary,
reasonable, and all-sufficient. Intrusted with all the offices needful for man's
redemption, he possesses powers fully adequate to the infinite work, and exerts
them when and where they are most needed. It is his stated business to strike
off the chains from wretched prisoners,to administer balm to those who are
wounded to death, food to those who are perishing with hunger,eyes and light to
the blind and benighted. He is the "shadow of a great rock in a weary land,"
"a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest." In his prophetic
office he brings out to view the secrets of the Eternal Mind: as a Priest he
pacifies divine wrath by atonement and intercession: as a King he subdues the
stubborn will, marks out the road to life by salutary precepts, defends from
spiritual enemies, and renders all events subservient to the good of his people.
As Captain of the Lord's host he will carry them through their warfare and bring
them off victorious. As Physician of souls he will heal all their spiritual
maladies and confirm them in immortal health. He is a most pleasant resting
place from the perturbations of guilt, the vexations of care, and the anguish of
affliction. Possessing inexhaustible life in himself, he is the source of
unfailing life to his members, who before were "dead in trespasses and sins." As
"Heir of all things" and Distributer of the whole estate, he has every necessary
good to impart in this world and infinite riches in the world to come.

This mercy is still further heightened by the patience and condescending
tenderness which he exercises towards his people. He calls them his friends, his
brethren, his children, his spouse, the members of his body, the apple of his
eye. In the character of a near and tender relation, he has become a mild medium
through which they may look up into the insufferable splendors of the Godhead
without dazzling or paining their sight. Although the awful God of majesty, he
is not ashamed to own and befriend a poor race of unsightly outcasts and to take
them into union with himself. With unconquerable patience he bears with all
their provocations, and with unfailing faithfulness remains their friend during
all their perverseness and ingratitude. Though their returns are such as would
weary any other love, he is still engaged in pardoning their sins, subduing
their corruptions, and conducting them to glory. As a tender shepherd he gathers
the lambs in his arms and carries them in his bosom. And O with what
overpowering kindness does he speak to them when he holds communion with them,
when he meets them in a happy hour as they are walking out like Isaac to
meditate at the evening tide, and drawing aside the veil, shows the sweetest
countenance dressed in celestial smiles; or when finding them bowed to the earth
and drenched in tears, he gently raises them in his arms, and with more than a
mother's tenderness wipes the sorrows from their cheeks and breathes ineffable
consolation into their spirits. Ye who have known his love, can witness the
ineffable sweetness with which he manifests himself at such seasons. In his
providence he takes care to suffer no real evil to befall his people, to
withhold from them no real good, and to make them the happier for every event.
And when this trying life is past, he will receive them to his own presence, to
a near and ever increasing union to himself, where love perfect and reciprocal
shall hold immortal reign.

This wondrous mercy is further expressed in the gift of sabbaths and sacraments,
and especially the written word. When we perceive the breathings of divine love
in those precious Scriptures which were inspired by the Holy Ghost; when the
soul lies at some divine promise, drinking in immortal refreshment, and filling
itself as from some celestial spring, O how rich and vast does the love of God
appear.

Fresh evidences of this love spring up at every review of his past providence
towards the Church. "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of
his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them, and he
bore them and carried them all the days of old." The preservation of Noah in the
ark, the call and protection of Abraham, the deliverance of the Church from
Egypt, its support in the wilderness and establishment in Canaan, the numerous
deliverances wrought for Israel, their restoration from Babylon, the
establishment and astonishing growth of the Christian Church, its protection
during the successive persecutions, and the continued efforts of the Spirit to
preserve and enlarge it, are all monuments of amazing love and faithfulness. And
when we cast our eyes down the slope of ages and behold the glory of Zion
filling all the earth, how do we dance as in fancied visions and think the bliss
too great to be real. And then, when we open the Scriptures and behold a "Thus
saith the Lord" expressly to confirm our hopes, with what rapturous gratitude do
we make our boast of him; "Lo this is our God, we have waited for him and he
will save us: this is the Lord, we have waited for him, we will be glad and
rejoice in his salvation."

All these are the more affecting as being marks of distinguishing love.
Redeeming grace passed by the fallen angels to bring salvation to men. The
privileges of Gospel light and ordinances were taken from the heathen to be
given to us. The blessings of personal holiness and divine communion are
conferred on the people of God while withheld from the rest of the world. Our
lives are continued in a world of hope while millions are called to their last
account. While God was preserving the Hebrew Church and nourishing it with a
Father's care, Edom, Moab, and Ammon were given to the sword. And while angels
sing only of the goodness of the Lord, the redeemed will shout "grace, grace,"
and with higher notes and ecstacies chant the praises of redeeming love.
The grace of God appears still greater as being abundant and free for all. The
language of divine compassion is, "Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the
waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea come, buy wine and
milk without money and without price."

Having drawn this outline of the mercies of God, I shall now present them as
motives to holy feelings and practical godliness.

What admiration should possess our minds as we contemplate this wonderful love
of God. Nothing in the universe is so amazing. Not an angel in heaven but lives
in astonishment continually. And yet it is infinitely greater than ever Gabriel
imagined. As the sublime intellects of the upper world expand, it will appear
more and more amazing to eternity.

And while we wonder let gratitude fill our hearts. Of what avail is our
admiration without our thanks? It would only bring us to the condition of those
who gaze "and wonder and perish." What are our hearts made of if they can lie
under the weight of all these obligations and be unthankful still? Let us retain
a sense of divine mercies always upon our heart, and not suffer them, after a
transient impression, to pass off into oblivion. Let not the blessings of former
years be forgotten, but let them frequently be brought in review before us, that
we may never cease to remember how much we owe to our Lord.
To lasting gratitude let lasting love be added. What infinite beauty and worth
belong to Israel's God. And shall we be thankful for personal favors and not
love the benevolence which embraces the universe? This would be only the
contracted gratitude of a heart that can be engaged by nothing but the loaves
and fishes.

Let it be our daily joy that the universe contains such a God,a God whose
happiness consists in doing good, and who is executing so vast a plan for the
promotion of creature happiness, that he already realizes infinite blessedness
in gratified benevolence. Let universal joy catch from heart to heart and
circulate through heaven and earth that such a God lives, reigns, and is happy.
Let this be our morning and our evening song. Let it break in like the dawn of
day upon our gloomy hours; and like the sinking but recovered David, let us be
transported with the thought, "But thou, O Lord, shalt endure forever, and thy
remembrance unto all generations."

To such a God our highest praise belongs. He is the object of the incessant and
rapturous praise of all the choirs of paradise, and shall men neglect their
harps? In the warm transports of David's heavenly muse, let us invoke the sun
and all the orbs of light, the earth and all the things thereon, the heavens and
all their happy spirits, to praise the Lord,to praise him in the heights and in
the depths,to praise him with the voice of song, and with all the varieties of
instrumental harmony.

Let such a God be the supreme object of our faith, our hope, our confidence. On
him let us place our dependance for every thing we need for time and eternity.
Renouncing this delusive world and every idol which would rival him in our
hearts, let us make him our only point of rest, our only portion. Let him be the
object of our daily and cheerful worship. Let hypocrisy be banished from our
religion, and let sincerity mark our worship of him whose friendship for man has
been so sincere. Disclaiming all self-seeking, after his disinterested love to
us, let us live only for him; and in duty to one who so greatly denied himself
for us, let us largely practise self-denial. Henceforth let us consecrate
ourselves to the service of him who served us in death; and by our obedience to
all his commands attest the sincerity of our love and gratitude.

God forbid that we should be ashamed to confess him before men who was not
ashamed to own and befriend us before his Father and the holy angels; or that we
should fail to speak to a listening world of his excellent greatness and his
excellent loving kindness. It becomes us to imitate his devotedness to the glory
of God and the happiness of men; to put on sincere mercy and kindness,
forbearing one another in love, doing good to all as we have opportunity,
especially to the household of faith; condescending to men of low degree, meek
and gentle to all, affable, courteous, and obliging, ready to forgive injuries,
given to hospitality, and generous in distributing to the poor the gifts of a
generous God.

To the dominion of enthroned love it becomes us to submit; resigning all our
interests to the divine disposal, and enduring with patience and not with
petulance whatever such a God is pleased to impose.

Against such a God it is that we have been found in arms. O "tell it not in
Gath." Under the weight of all these obligations we have risen up to oppose
unbounded love. Alas we knew not what we did. In vain might our tears and blood
be applied to efface stains so ignominious and deep. Well may we go softly all
our years in the bitterness of our soul. Let pride never again appear in natures
capable of this. Let humility and brokenness of heart mark our future lives; and
in sympathy with the publican let us smite on our guilty breasts and cry, "God
be merciful to me a sinner."

And since our crimes are of so deep a die that nothing but atoning blood can
wash them out, and since such infinite pains have been taken to provide a
Saviour for us,a Saviour every way suited to our wants; let us gratefully seize
the offered salvation and cast ourselves on him as the only ground of hope. And
then, "though" our "sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though
they be red like crimson they shall be as wool."

Ah sinners, how long will you slight such endearing love and reject such
heaven-astonishing mercy? How long shall infinite tenderness be grieved at your
ingratitude? Why will you treat with abuse that excellence which angels adore?
Why will you tread under foot that love which dissolves all heaven? When will
you at length be wise, and for once, after so long a time, act like ingenuous
creatures? Let the goodness of God lead us all to repentance, and let us spend
our days in making mention of the loving kindnesses of the Lord, and in
preparing to unite with the redeemed in singing, "Worthy is the lamb that was
slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory
and blessing."

"Now ,unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and
hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and
dominion forever and ever. Amen."





 

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