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Covenant Mercy

by William Romaine

Mercy is that perfection in Jehovah which disposes Him to save miserable sinners: not a blind mercy such as infidels dream of, but consistent with the honour of His law and exercised to the glory of its holy precepts and just sanctions; therefore mercy and truth are so often mentioned together in Scripture. God will not show any mercy to sinners but such as tends to establish His truth. Not one of His words can be broken, nor can one tittle of them ever fail. He will be justified in all His sayings and clear when He is judged. He will be true and just whenever He is merciful: His mercies being all covenant mercies, and all given in and through Christ Jesus. All men are by nature children of wrath, and only they who are chosen and called in Christ Jesus are saved from wrath. These are vessels of mercy. His mercy is to them the love of a tender Parent to His miserable children. He pities them and determines to save them from their sins: in due time He quickens them, gives them eyes to see and hearts to believe in Christ as the Apostle witnesses: “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5).

But for what reason and upon what account is He merciful to them? His mercy has no motive but His own will. The objects of His mercy are corrupt fallen creatures, deserving His wrath even as others; and therefore He does not deal with them upon the footing of desert. If He showed them mercy for any foreseen works of their own, because He knew they would repent and believe the Gospel, and walk worthy of it, mercy would then be turned into justice, and would lose both its name and nature. Whereas He says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” It is from Mine own freedom and sovereignty that I have mercy on any sinners. The cause is in Myself and not in them. I have compassion on whom I will. It is from Mine own love that I have determined to be gracious to them; and My love has determined to save them, and the way also in which I will save them. I have appointed the end and the means at the same time. Of Mine own motion and good-will I have resolved to give My Son for them and My Spirit to them, that they may repent and believe the Gospel and walk worthy of it. And so I may bring them through My tender mercies to eternal salvation. If this were not the case, how could the description be true that mercy is “from everlasting to everlasting”?

The mercy of God knows no variableness or shadow of turning. It is always the same. His Fatherly heart ever entertained thoughts of mercy towards them, for when He shows them mercy it is said to be “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus”—not for their merits but for His mercies’ sake—not for what they may claim to be, but for His own name’s sake. He gives all from mercy, and He would have all the glory returned to the mercy of the Giver. What He gives, that He continues, and according to Covenant engagements. Covenant mercies are certain mercies: “I will make an Everlasting Covenant with you, even the sure mercies of the Beloved” (Isa. 55:3). They have already been made sure to Him. He is now in full possession of every promised mercy. And He has received them not as a private person, but as the Head of the Body, the Church. He keeps them for the use of His Church members. And as sure as the crown is upon His head, so surely will it be upon every one of their heads; for they are in the same covenant with Him, whose sure mercies reach from eternity to eternity.

Oh what a view is here opened to the eye of faith! Mercy always purposing, and in due time bestowing its free blessings upon sinners—mercy without beginning, and with- out ending. The Holy Spirit often calls upon us to behold it in this life, for He has not celebrated any of the Divine properties so much as this. It is frequently the noble subject of thanksgiving in the Psalmist’s hymns. He has dedicated the 136th entirely to the praise of mercy: and going through the works of nature, providence, and grace, He ascribes them, one by one, to that mercy which endures forever. Oh happy, thrice happy objects of it! What was in the heart of the Father of mercies towards you from everlasting will be so to everlasting. His sure mercies are yours. His compassions toward you fail not. Whatever you want for your successful walk, He has promised to give you. Be not discouraged then: He will supply all your wants, not for your sakes, but for His mercies’ sake. Are you sensible of your unworthiness? That is well, mercy is for such. It can have no glory but from such as you. Trust it, and be assured you will find that it “endures forever.”

If a doubt should arise in your mind—it is true, mercy in God cannot fail, but the exercise of it towards me may fail: I may so walk as to deprive myself of all claim and title to it. The Psalmist has given a direct answer to this ill-grounded suspicion. He says, “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting unto them that fear Him.” “Unto them that fear Him”: this is their character—they fear their God. Once there was no fear of God before their eyes; but now they know Him to be their Father. The Spirit of adoption has given them joy and peace in believing it. Hence a holy, filial fear rules in their hearts, and influences their walk. While it operates thus, and as obedient children, they fear to offend their loving Father, and desire to please Him in all things. What ground have they to suspect that His mercy toward them should fail?

But if they cease to fear Him, then will He cease to be merciful to them? No, blessed be God. He has made ample provision in this case. “I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me” (Jer. 32:40). This fear is one of the fruits of the Spirit, which He produces in all the children of God; and they have it from Him as a covenant blessing, which is full security for its continuance. It is one of the graces provided for them in the Saviour by the Father’s immutable love. “I will,” says He, “give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever” (Jer. 32:39). The Holy Spirit is the Guardian of this never-failing fear. It is His office to put it and then to keep it in their hearts. He has the whole charge of it; and therefore He has promised to abide with them forever, that they may fear the Lord all the days of their lives.

Originally edited by Emmett O'Donnell for Mt. Zion Publications, a ministry of Mt. Zion Bible Church, 2603 West Wright St., Pensacola, FL 32505. www.mountzion.org

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