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51

XII

MERCY AND OBLIGATION

“I forgave thee all that debt; oughtest thou not therefore to have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, as I had compassion on thee?”—Matt. xviii. 32-3.

HERE is a man who has received a great mercy, and while he is rejoicing in his own freedom he goes forth to oppress his fellowman. He is false to his own experience. He is a traitor to his own deliverer. He utterly fails to read the significance of his own life. It was the hope and purpose of his master that, having been released from his own burden, he would hasten away to release his brother. The spacious joy of freedom ought to have made him an apostle of liberty. The sunny cheeriness of his own new day should make him a mountain-herald of glad tidings to all who may be still in the gloom. He had become a child of privilege, and he ought to be inspired with a sacred 52sense of obligation. That is the broad and certain teaching of the Lord—we are to translate our mercies into obligations. We are to look into our favours and search for suggestions of our duties. We are to carefully count our blessings and then regard them all as the interpreters of our divine commissions. We are to do to others as the gracious Lord has done to us. There is an “ought” in every mercy. There is a duty in every bounty.

Well, that opens out one clear road of moral obligation. If we are to find our duties among our mercies, it is necessary that we tread the somewhat forgotten road of divine providence. We must rummage among our negligences. We must make an inventory of our favours. We must notice where a lamp was lit for us at a dark turning of the way. We must call to mind the sweet waters of the spring which we found by the foot of the hill. We must re-cross the once-while wilderness which so startlingly began to blossom like the rose. We must remember the lilies of peace that were given to us in the valley of humiliation. We must go back and listen to the angel of consolation who 53brought us bread and wine when we were fainting by a newly made grave. We must return to that momentous hour when our heaviest burden rolled away at the foot of the Cross and we saw it no more. We must call our memory to awake, and we must command it to display the treasures which we have received at the hands of the Lord. “The Lord’s dealings with George Müller!” Such was the way in which that great lover of men used to record the love-gifts of his God. And we, too, must rehearse His dealings with ourselves, and when we have surveyed all the shining tokens of His grace, we must re-read them in terms of obligation, and we must go forth in the same spirit of blessing to help and cheer our fellow-men. “I gave . . . thou oughtest!”

This has always been one of the lofty distinctions of the saints. They have had consecrated memories, and they have come into God’s presence in the multitude of His mercies. But that is not all. Memory has been the inspiration of service. They have come before the Lord laden with the experience of His bounty, and this sense of grace has inspired the sacred desire for a corresponding 54ministry. “I will come into Thy house in the multitude of Thy mercies. . . . What shall I render unto the Lord for all His mercies toward me?” These are two complementary acts in the healthy action of praise—the sense of God’s mercy and a willingness to render it again in the service of His Holy Will.

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