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Let thy mercies come also to me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according to thy word.—Ver. 41.
IN this verse you have the man of God in straits, and begging for deliverance. In this prayer and address to God you may observe—
1. The cause and fountain of all, thy mercies.
2. The effect or thing asked, salvation.
3. The warrant or ground of his expectation, according to thy word.
4. The effectual application of the benefit asked, come also unto me. The sum of the verse may be given you in this point.
Doct. That the salvation of God is the fruit of his mercy, and effectually dispensed and applied to his people according to his word. There is a twofold salvation—temporal and eternal.
1. Temporal salvation is deliverance from temporal dangers: Exod. xiv. 13, ‘Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.’
2. Eternal deliverance from hell and wrath, together with that positive blessedness which is called eternal life: Heb. v. 9, ‘And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him.’ The text is applicable to both, though possibly the former principally intended.
First, I shall apply it to salvation temporal, or deliverance out of trouble. There observe—
1. The cause of it, ‘Thy mercies.’ God’s children often fall into 440such straits that nothing but mercy can help them out. All deliverance is the fruit of mercy pitying our misery, but some deliverance especially is the fruit of mercy pardoning our sin, I shall give you some special cases, both as to danger and sin.
[1.] In all cases as to danger, it is mercy which appears, partly because God’s great argument to move him is the misery of his people. It is his great argument: Deut. xxxii. 36, ‘The Lord will repent for his people;’ when he seeth that all their power is gone, and none shut up and left, no manner of defence, but exposed as a prey to those that have a mind to wrong them. It is the only argument: Ps. lxxix. 8, ‘Let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us, for we are brought very low.’ Mercy relents towards a sinful people, when they are a wasted people. Partly because when there are no other means to help, mercy unexpectedly findeth out means for us. We are at an utter loss in ourselves; God finds out means of relief for us: Ps. lvii. 3, ‘He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up, Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and truth.’ When we want help on earth, faith seeketh for help from heaven, and mercy chooseth means for us when we cannot pitch upon anything that may do us good. In these cases doth mercy discover itself as to danger.
[2.] More eminently in special cases, when their sins have evidently brought them into those straits. Many afflictions are the strokes of God’s immediate hand, or the common effects of his providence permitting the malice of men for our trial and exercise; but some are the proper effects of our own sins. We run ourselves into inconveniences by our folly, and even then mercy findeth a way of escape for us. Two ways may our sin be said to bring our trouble upon us meritoriè et effectivè.
(1.) Meritoriè, when some judgment treadeth upon the heels of some foregoing sin and provocation; as David, when he had offended in the matter of Uriah, see Ps. iii. title, ‘A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son,’ and the two first verses, ‘Lord, how are they increased that trouble me? Many are they that rise up against me; many there be that say of my soul, There is no help for him in God, Selah.’ David was deserted of his own subjects, chased from his palace and royal seat by his own son, Absalom. He had defiled Uriah’s wife secretly, and his wives were defiled in the face of all Israel, and he driven to wander up and down for safety. God will make all that behold the scandalous sins of his people see what it is to provoke him to wrath. See how he complains, ver. 1, ‘Lord, how are they increased that trouble me? Many are they that rise up against me.’ You shall find in 2 Sam. xv. 12, ‘The people increaseth continually with Absalom;’ a multitude against him, and the rest durst not be for him, their hearts were hovering. And in another place, 2 Sam. xvii. 11, all Israel gathered to him from Dan to Beersheba. In what a sorry plight was David when all was against him, and the world thought God was against him! for so it followeth, ver. 2, ‘Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God, Selah.’ The world counted the case desperate, and insulted over him, now God hath left him; but they mistook fatherly correction for 441vindicative justice. This was a sad condition; but David goeth to God to fetch him off; though he had drawn this judgment upon himself, yet he deals with him for relief: in such cases mercy is seen. That pit must be very deep when the line of grace doth not go to the bottom of it. In the face of the temptation David maintaineth his confidence in God: see ver. 3, ‘But thou, O Lord, art my shield, my glory, and the lifter-up of my head.’ God is counter-comfort to all his troubles. He was in danger, God was his shield; his kingdom was at stake, God was his glory: he was under sorrow and shame, God would lift up his head; to the unarmed a shield, to the disgraced glory, to the dejected an encourager or the lifter-up of his head. Thus when his case was thought desperate doth mercy work for him.
(2.) Effectivè, when we ourselves run into the snare, and be holden with the cords of our own vanity: Prov. v. 22, ‘His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins;’ when we have been playing about the cockatrice’s hole, and have brought mischief upon ourselves. Sometimes God’s children have been guilty of this; they have been the cause of their own troubles; as David, when his unbelief drove him to Gath, where he was in danger of his life, and escaped by his dissembling: Ps. xxxiv., entitled, ‘A Prayer of David when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.’ And Josiah put himself on a war against Pharaoh Necho, and other such instances. Then if they be saved, it is certainly mercy.
Again, observe, it is not mercy, but mercies; the expression is plural—
[1.] To note the plenty and perfection of this attribute in God. God is very merciful to poor creatures. See in how many notions God’s mercy is represented to us. A distinct consideration of them yieldeth an advantage in believing; for though they express the same thing, yet every notion begetteth a fresh thought, by which mercy is more taken abroad in the view of conscience. This is that pouring out God’s name spoken of Cant. i. 3, ‘Thy name is as ointment poured forth.’ Ointment in the box doth not yield such a fragrancy as when it is poured out. God hath proclaimed his name: Exod. xxxiv. 6, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth.’ God hath given this description of himself, and the saints often take notice of it: Ps. ciii. 8, ‘The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and of great kindness;’ Joel ii. 13, ‘Turn to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil;’ Jonah iv. 2, I knew that thou wert a gracious God, slow to anger, and of great kindness;’ and in divers other places. What doth the Spirit of God aim at in this^ express enumeration and accumulation of names of mercy, but to give us a help in meditation, and to enlarge our apprehensions of God’s mercy? (1.) The first notion is mercy, which is an attribute whereby God inclineth to favour them that are in misery: it is a name God hath taken with respect to us; the love of God first falleth upon himself. God loveth himself, but he is not merciful to himself; mercy respects creatures in misery. Justice seeks a fit object; mercy, a fit occasion. Justice looketh to what is deserved; mercy, to what is wanted and needed.442
(2.) The next notion is grace, which noteth the free bounty of God, and excludeth all means on the creature’s part. Grace doth all gratis, freely, though there be no precedent debt or obligation, or hope of recompense, whereby anything can accrue to God. His external motive is our misery, his internal motive his own grace. Angels, that never sinned, are saved merely out of grace. Men, that were once miserable, are saved, not only out of grace, but out of mercy.
(3.) The next notion is long-suffering or slowness to anger. The Lord is not easily overcome by the wrongs or sins of the creature. He doth not only pity our misery—that is mercy, and do us good for nothing—that is grace, but beareth long with our infirmities—that is slowness to anger. Certainly he is easily appeased, and is hardly drawn to punish. Men are ready to anger, slow to mercy, quickly inflamed, and hardly appeased; but it is quite the contrary with God. It is good to observe the difference between God and man. Man cannot make anything of a sudden, but destroyeth it in an instant. When men are to make anything, they are long about it, as building a house is a long work; but plucking it down and undermining it is done in a short time. But God is quick in making, slow in destroying; he made the world in six days. He could have done it in a moment, were it not that he would give us a pattern of labour and order in all things. Now it hath continued for six thousand years, and upwards, as some account. Such is his longsuffering. How many of us has God borne with for ten, twenty, thirty years, from childhood to grey hairs, from the cradle to the grave! The angels were not endured in their sinful state, but immediately cast into hell.
(4.) Kindness and bounty; he is plenteous in goodness. God is good and doth good; his communications to the creature are free and full, as the sun giveth out light and the fountain water. Thus you gee reason why mercies are plurally expressed.
[2.] The frequency of it: Lam. iii. 23, ‘His mercies are new every morning;’ that is, renewed; those that concern the body and soul: not only merciful in saving once or twice, but every day pardoneth our new sins, and giveth to his repenting children new comforts. There is a throne of grace open every day, not once a year, Heb. iv. 16, as it was to the high priest under the law. The golden sceptre is daily held out, the fountain is ever open, not stopped up nor drawn dry. God keepeth not terms, but keepeth a court of audience; and every day we may come and sue out our pardon, and take out the comforts we stand in need of.
[3.] The variety of our necessities, both by reason of misery and sin; go that not mercy, but mercies, will do us good. We have not one sin, but many; not one misery, but many; therefore mercies are needful to us.
(1.) Our miseries are many, danger waylayeth us on every side; therefore the mercy of God is said to compass us about: Ps. xxxii. 10, ‘He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.’ On which side soever temptation and trouble maketh the assault, mercy is ready to make the defence: ‘Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth them out of them all,’ Ps. xxxiv. 19. Their troubles are many, from God’s own hand, Satan’s temptations, malice of the wicked world; therefore ‘Let thy mercies come to me.’443
(2.) Our sins, so many provocations, transgressions from the womb, Isa. xlviii. 8. After grace received we have our failings; there remains much venom and evil of sin: Ps. li. 1, ‘Have mercy upon me according to the greatness of thy mercy; according to the multitude of thy tender mercy blot out my transgressions;’ where great sins, great mercies; many sins, many mercies. In that one fact how many ways did he sin? No great sin can be committed alone, but one evil act draweth on another, as links in a chain: adultery, blood; and this by a king, whose duty it was to punish it in others. The more above the stroke of man’s justice, the more liable to God’s. This when he had many wives of his own. A crime committed out of want is not so heinous as that committed out of wantonness. He took the poor man’s one ewe lamb, when he had many flocks and herds. This was done not suddenly and in the heat of passion, but in cool blood, plotting his opportunities, abusing Uriah, his simplicity and sincerity, to his own destruction. His honesty in not returning to his house should have been a check upon David. He maketh him drunk; drew Joab into the conspiracy and confederacy of his guilt; many perished with Uriah in the attempt upon Rabbah.
[4.] The many favours to be bestowed upon us, as food, clothing, protection, liberty in our service, and after all eternal life; therefore mercies, which giveth us ‘all things necessary to life and godliness,’ 2 Peter i. 3.
2. The effect, ‘thy salvation,’ brought about in God’s way, and upon God’s terms. In temporal safety we must wait for God’s salvation, such as God giveth, God alloweth. Better be miserable than be saved upon other terms. Many would be safe from troubles, but they would take their own way, and so turn aside to crooked paths. Those martyrs spoken of in the Hebrews, chap. xi. 35, ‘would not accept deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection;’ to wince under trouble, and fling off the burden ere it be taken off by God without any sin of ours; otherwise we break prison, get out by the window, not by the door. We must take up our cross as long as God will please to have us bear it. David saith, ‘Thy salvation.’
3. The warrant and ground of his expectation, ‘According to thy word.’ God’s mercy is to be expected according to the tenor of the promise. How is that?
[1.] No temporal blessing is absolutely to be expected, for God hath reserved the liberty of trying and chastising his children in outward things. The covenant is to be understood with the exception of the cross, and we can have no temporal benefit by it but as it is useful for us: Ps. lxxxix. 32, 33, ‘I will visit their transgression with a rod, and their iniquity with stripes: nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.’ God will use medicinal discipline, though not satisfy his justice upon them.
[2.] The qualification of the promise must be regarded by those that would have benefit by it. God’s covenant is made with his people; it is a mutual stipulation. Many would have comfort; we plead promises of safety with God, but forget promises of obedience to him; as Ephraim would tread out the corn, but not break the clods, Hosea x. 11. 444There was food: Deut. xxv. 4, ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the ox which treadeth out the corn.’ We mind our own interest more than God’s honour.
[3.] A word of promise calleth for faith and trust. Whatever contrariety appeareth in God’s providence, God’s word must bear up our hearts; it is as a pawn till the deliverance come. God’s mercy is the same still; his word calleth for trust. The more we trust and hope in his mercy the better for us: Ps. xiii. 5, ‘I have trusted in thy mercy; my soul shall rejoice in thy salvation;’ Ps. xxxiii. 22, ‘Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we hope in thee;’ and Ps. xxxii. 10, ‘He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.’ The more clear is your claim when you trust yourselves with him. He is a merciful God, and his word saith he will take care for them that fear him.
[4.] All this trust must be set awork in prayer; so doth David, and so saith the word: Ps. 1. 15, ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify my name;’ Jer. xxix. 11, 12, ‘I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord; thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you;’ Ezek. xxxvi. 37, ‘Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.’
4. The effectual application, ‘Let thy mercies come also unto me.’
[1.] He beggeth application: ‘unto me also.’ God is every day scattering his mercies abroad in the world, and David would not be left out of God’s care and blessed provision, but have his share also. Esau’s words are applicable upon this occasion: Gen. xxvii. 38, ‘Hast thou but one blessing, O my Father? Bless me, even me also.’ When the earth is full of his goodness, beg your share. God is the Father of mercies; he hath not the less for bestowing, as the sun hath not less light for us because others enjoy it with us. God doth not waste by giving.
[2.] He beggeth an effectual application, ‘Let thy mercies come unto me.’ The way was blocked up with sins and difficulties, yet mercy could clear all, and find access to him, or make out its way. Let it come to me, that is, let it be performed or come to pass, as it is rendered, Judges xiii. 12, ‘Now let thy words come to pass to us;’ Heb.—Let it come; here let it come home to me, for my comfort and deliverance. David elsewhere saith, Ps. xxiii. 6, ‘Mercy and goodness shall follow me all my days;’ go after him, find him out in his wanderings. So Ps. cxvi. 12, ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?’ They found their way to him though shut up with sins and dangers. Thus we see how to plead with God for temporal salvation; we must make grace, and nothing but grace, the ground of our hope, and this according to the tenor of the word.
Secondly, As it is applicable to eternal salvation; and then—
1. The ground of all is mercy, or pity of the creatures’ misery. The Lord is not moved to bestow grace upon sinners for any goodness that he findeth in them, or could foresee in them, for he findeth none, and could foresee nothing but what was the fruit of his own grace: Rom. xi. 35, ‘Who hath given him first, and it shall be recompensed unto 445him again?’ It is the honour of God to begin all things, as the river floweth all to the fountain, the fountain nothing to the river; as none can give him first, so none can be profitable unto him, for he needeth nothing: Acts xvii. 25, ‘Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.’ Nay, we deserve the contrary, to be cast into utter darkness: Ezek. xxxvi. 21, 22, ‘I do not this for your sakes: I had pity for my name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen;’ 1 Peter i. 3, ‘Of his abundant goodness he hath begotten us to a lively hope.’ We have not a right notion of mercy unless we admire the plenty of it: Eph. ii. 4, ‘God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love where with he loved us, when we were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us with Christ.’ There need many mercies from first to last for the saving of a poor sinner; their natural misery is great: Ezek. xvi. 6, ‘When I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live.’ Their actual sins many: Jer. xiv. 7, ‘Our iniquities testify against us.’ The way of their recovery by Christ is mysterious: John iii. 16, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ The course taken for satisfying wronged justice; the application involveth many mercies. The renewing of their natures: Titus iii. 5, ‘According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.’ The preserving of inherent grace against temptations, forgiving many sins after conversion: Isa. lv. 7, ‘Let the wicked for sake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon;’ Prov. xxiv. 16, ‘The righteous fall seven times a day, and riseth up again.’ The great eternal good things to be bestowed on them: Jude 21, ‘Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’ So that from first to last there is nothing but a concatenation of mercies.
2. The effect, salvation. This properly deserveth to be called so. We are saved but in part before, then from all evils, from the greatest evil, hell. Before we are saved, but we maybe troubled again. Now no more sorrow, when all opposition is broken, and God is all in all, and the church presented as a prey snatched out of the teeth of lions; all former things are done away.
3. This dispensed according to the word. Now what doth the word say? When a sinner repenteth, all the iniquities which he hath committed shall be forgotten. There is abuse of mercy noted: Deut. xxix. 19, ‘If he shall bless himself and say, I shall have peace though I walk in the imagination of my heart;’ I may go on in sin and cry God a mercy, and there is an end. No; mercy issueth out itself for salvation of men according to the word; these are conclusions contrary to grace: Jude 4, ‘There are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness.’ The principle is true, but the conclusion is false. Certainly God is merciful, there is no end nor measure nor bank nor bottom in his mercy; but throughout the whole 446scriptures mercy is only promised to the penitent, and those that come to God by Christ. Take mercy according to the word, according to the analogy of faith, and there is not a more powerful incentive of duty: Ps. cxxx. 5, ‘There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared;’ Titus ii. 11, 12, ‘The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world;’ Rom. xii. 1, ‘I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.’ This is true divinity. The flesh deviseth another doctrine. Let us sin that grace may abound, to make a carnal pillow of God’s mercy, that they may sleep securely in sin, yea, a dungcart to carry away their filth. God is merciful, but to those that count sin a burden and misery; God is slow to anger, but yet angry when provoked: abused patience kindleth into fury, as water, when the mouth of the fountain or course of the river is stopped, breaketh out with more violence. God hath his arrows of displeasure to shoot at the wicked. You must not fancy a God all honey, all sweetness; he is ‘the father of mercies,’ but so that he is also ‘a God of vengeance:’ Ps. lxviii. 19-21, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation, Selah. He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. But God shall wound the hairy scalp of his enemies.’ The mercy of God is large and free, if men do not make themselves incapable by their impenitency.
4. We must beg—(1.) The application of these: ‘to me also:’ ‘We have heard that the kings of Israel are merciful kings,’ 1 Kings xx. 31. Now we would feel it: 1 Tim. i. 15, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.’ Wind in ourselves within the covert of a promise, enter at the back-door of a promise; there comes virtue from Christ if but touched. The woman came behind him and touched the hem of his garment; so we must seek the application of this virtue. (2.) Effectual application, ‘Let it come unto me.’ Mercy cometh unto us, or we shall never come unto it, 1 Peter i. 10. The grace that cometh to us, χάριν ἐρχομένην, the grace which is brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, God’s grace, is brought home to our doors; we seek not after it, but it seeketh after us. Salvation has gone forth, saith the prophet, to find out lost sinners: ‘Wisdom hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the high places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither,’ Prov. ix. 3, 4. God sends the gospel up and down the world to offer his grace to men; it worketh out its way.
Use. Here is encouragement and direction to poor creatures how to obtain God’s mercy for their comfort.
1. Encouragement. Mercy doth all with God; it is the first cause, that setteth every thing awork.
[1.] Mercy is natural to God: 2 Cor. i. 3, ‘Father of mercies.’ God is not merciful by accident, but by nature; the sun doth not more naturally shine, nor fire more naturally burn, nor water more naturally flow, than God doth naturally show mercy.447
[2.] It is pleasing to him: Micah vii. 18, ‘Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.’ Judgment is called ‘his strange work,’ Isa. xxviii. 21, ‘That he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act.’ Primitive1616 Qu. ‘punitive’?—ED. acts he is forced to, but he rejoiceth to do good, as live honey droppeth of its own accord.
[3.] It is plentiful in God; he is rich in mercy, abundant in goodness truth. Thy sins are like a spark of fire that falleth into the ocean; it is quenched presently. So are all thy sins in the ocean of God’s mercy; there is not more water in the sea than there is mercy in God.
[4.] It is the great wonder of the divine nature. Everything in God is wonderful, especially his pardoning mercy. It is no such great wonder in God that he stretcheth out the heavens like a curtain, since he is omni potent; that he formed the earth or the waters, since he is strong; that he distinguished times, adorned the heavens with so many stars, decked the earth with such variety of plants and herbs, since he is wise; that he hath set bounds to the sea, governeth the waters, since he is Lord of all; that he made man a living creature, since he is the fountain of life; but that he can be merciful to sinners, infinitely merciful when infinitely just. There is a conflict in the attributes about us, but ‘mercy rejoiceth over judgment,’ James ii. 13; that he is so gracious and condescending, when his first covenant seemed to bind him to destroy us; that he that hateth sin is so ready to forgive it, pardoneth it so often, and punisheth it so seldom.
[5.] He is communicative; it is ‘over all his works,’ Ps. cxlv. 9. Not a creature but subsisteth by God’s mercy; he loveth man and beast, Ps. xxxvi. 6; and 1 Tim. iv. 10, ‘He is the saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.’ The whole earth is full of his goodness: Lord, show it to me also. ‘He heareth the cry of the ravens.’
2. To direct us how to sue for it in a broken-hearted manner. There-are two extremes—self-confidence and desperation. Self-confidence challengeth a debt, and despair shutteth out hopes of mercy. A proud Pharisee pleads his works, Luke xviii. 11. Cain saith, Gen. iv. 13, ‘My punishment is greater that I can bear.’ The middle between, both is the penitent publican: Luke xviii. 13, ‘He stood afar off, and would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ Go to him; that which with men is the worst plea, with God is the best.
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