(The following is taken from Arthur Pink) "Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC.
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THE MERCY OF GOD from The Attributes of God
“O give thanks unto the Lord: for He is good, for His mercy
endureth forever” (Psalm 136:1).
For this perfection of the Divine character God is greatly to be praised.
Three times over in as many verses does the Psalmist here call upon the
saints to give thanks unto the Lord for this adorable attribute. And surely
this is the least that can be asked for from those who have been such
bounteous gainers by it. When we contemplate the characteristics of this
Divine excellency, we cannot do otherwise than bless God for it. His mercy
is “great” (1 Kings 3:6), “plenteous” (Psalm 86:5), “tender”
(Luke 1:78), “abundant” (1 Peter 1:3); it is “from everlasting to
everlasting upon them that fear Him” (Psalm 103:17). Well may we
say with the Psalmist, “I will sing aloud of Thy mercy” (Psalm 59:16).
“I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim
the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I
will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy”
Wherein differs the “mercy of God from His grace”? The mercy of God has
its spring in the Divine goodness. The first issue of God’s goodness is His
benignity or bounty, by which He gives liberally to His creatures as
creatures; thus has He given being and life to all things. The second issue
of God’s goodness is His mercy, which denotes the ready inclination of
God to relieve the misery of fallen creatures. Thus, “mercy” presupposes
Though it may not be easy at the first consideration to perceive a real
difference between the grace and the mercy of God, it helps us thereto if
we carefully ponder His dealings with the unfallen angels. He has never
exercised mercy toward them, for they have never stood in any need
thereof, not having sinned or come beneath the effects of the curse. Yet,
they certainly are the objects of God’s free and sovereign grace. First,
because of His election of them from out of the whole angelic race
(1Timothy 5:21). Second, and in consequence of their election, because of
His preservation of them from apostasy, when Satan rebelled and dragged
down with him one-third of the celestial hosts (Revelation 12:4).
Third, in making Christ their Head (Colossians 2:10; 1 Peter 3:22),
whereby they are eternally secured in the holy condition in which they were
created. Fourth, because of the exalted position which has been assigned
them: to live in God’s immediate presence (Daniel 7:10), to serve Him
constantly in His heavenly temple, to receive honorable commissions from
Him (Hebrews 1:14). This is abundant grace toward them but “mercy”
it is not.
In endeavoring to study the mercy of God as it is set forth in Scripture, a
threefold distinction needs to be made, if the Word of Truth is to be
“rightly divided” thereon.
First, there is a general mercy of God, which is extended not only to
all men, believers and unbelievers alike, but also to the entire creation:
“His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9): “He
giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). God has
upon the brute creation in their needs, and supplies them with suitable
Second, there is a special mercy of God, which is exercised toward the
children of men, helping and succouring them, notwithstanding their
sins. To them also He communicates all the necessities of life:
“for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
Third, there is a sovereign mercy which is reserved for the heirs of
salvation, which is communicated to them in a covenant way, through
Following out a little further the difference between the second and third
distinctions pointed out above, it is important to note that the mercies
which God bestows on the wicked are solely of a temporal nature; that is
to say, they are confined strictly to this present life. There will be no mercy
extended to them beyond the grave:
“It is a people of no understanding: therefore He that made them
will not have mercy on them, and He that formed them will show
them no favor” (Isaiah 27:11).
But at this point a difficulty may suggest itself to some of our readers,
namely, Does not Scripture affirm that “His mercy endureth forever”
(Psalm 136:1)? Two things need to be pointed out in that connection.
God can never cease to be merciful, for this is a quality of the Divine
essence (Psalm 116:5); but the exercise of His mercy is regulated by
His sovereign will. This must be so, for there is nothing outside Himself
which obliges Him to act; if there were, that “something” would be
supreme, and God would cease to be God.
It is pure sovereign grace which alone determines the exercise of Divine
mercy. God expressly affirms this fact in Romans 9:15, “For He saith
to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” It is not the
wretchedness of the creature which causes Him to show mercy, for God is
not influenced by things outside of Himself as we are. If God were
influenced by the abject misery of leprous sinners, He would cleanse and
save all of them. But He does not. Why? Simply because it is not His
pleasure and purpose so to do. Still less is it the merits of the creature
which causes Him to bestow mercies upon them, for it is a contradiction in
terms to speak of meriting “mercy.”
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according
to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5)
—the one standing in direct antithesis from the other. Nor is it the merits
of Christ which moves God to bestow mercies on His elect: that would be
putting the effect for the cause. It is “through” or because of the tender
mercy of our God that Christ was sent here to His people (Luke 1:78).
The merits of Christ make it possible for God to righteously bestow
spiritual mercies on His elect, justice having been fully satisfied by the
Surety! No, mercy arises solely from God’s imperial pleasure.
Again; though it be true, blessedly and gloriously true, that God’s mercy
“endureth forever,” yet we must observe carefully the objects to whom His
“mercy” is shown. Even the casting
of the reprobate into the
is an act of mercy. The punishment of the wicked is to be contemplated
from a threefold viewpoint. From God’s side, it is an act of justice,
vindicating His honor. The mercy of God is never shown to the prejudice
of His holiness and righteousness. From their side, it is an act of equity,
when they are made to suffer the due reward of their iniquities. But from
the standpoint of the redeemed, the punishment of the wicked is an act of
unspeakable mercy. How dreadful would it be if the present order of things
when the children of God are obliged to live in the midst of the children of
the Devil, should continue forever! Heaven would at once cease to be
heaven if the ears of the saints still heard the blasphemous and filthy
language of the reprobate. What a mercy that in the New Jerusalem
“there shall in nowise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither
worketh abomination” (<662127>Revelation 21:27)!
Lest the reader might think that in the last paragraph we have been drawing
upon our imagination, let us appeal to Holy Scripture in support of what
has been said. In Psalm 143:12 we find David praying, “And of Thy
mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I
am Thy servant.” Again; in Psalm 136:15 we read that God
“overthrew Pharaoh and his hosts
forever.” It was an act of vengeance upon Pharaoh and his hosts, but it was
an act of “mercy” unto the Israelites. Again, in Revelation 19:1-3 we
read, “I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia;
Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: for
true and righteous are His judgments: for He hath judged the great whore,
which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the
blood of His servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her
smoke rose up forever and ever.”
From what has just been before us, let us note how vain is the
presumptuous hope of the wicked, who, notwithstanding their continued
defiance of God, nevertheless count upon His being merciful to them. How
many there are who say, I do not believe that God will ever cast me into
Hell; He is too merciful. Such a hope is a viper, which if cherished in their
bosoms will sting them to death. God is a God of justice as well as mercy,
and He has expressly declared that He will “by no means clear the guilty”
(Exodus 34:7). Yea, He has said,
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, all the nations that forget
God” (Psalm 9:17).
As well might men reason: I do not believe that if filth be allowed to
accumulate and sewerage become stagnant and people deprive themselves
of fresh air, that a merciful God will let them fall a prey to a deadly fever.
The fact is that those who neglect the laws of health are carried away by
disease, notwithstanding God’s mercy. Equally true is it that those who
neglect the laws of spiritual health shall forever suffer the Second Death.
Unspeakably solemn is it to see so many abusing this Divine perfection.
They continue to despise God’s authority, trample upon His laws continue
in sin, and yet presume upon His mercy. But God will not be unjust to
Himself. God shows mercy to the truly penitent, but not to the impenitent
(Luke 13:3). To continue in sin and yet reckon upon Divine mercy
remitting punishment is diabolical. It is saying, “Let us do evil that good
may come,” and of all such it is written, whose “damnation is just”
(Romans 3:8). Presumption shall most certainly be disappointed; read
carefully Deuteronomy 29:18-20. Christ is the spiritual Mercy-seat,
and all who despise and reject His Lordship shall
“perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little”
But let our final thought be of God’s spiritual mercies unto His own
people. “Thy mercy is great unto the heavens” (Psalm 57:10). The
riches thereof transcend our loftiest thought. “For as the heaven is high
above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him”
(Psalm 103:11). None can measure it. The elect are designated
“vessels of mercy” (Romans 9:23). It is mercy that quickened them
when they were dead in sins (Ephesians 2:4,5). It is mercy that saves
them (<560305>Titus 3:5). It is His abundant mercy which begat them unto an
eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:3). Time would fail us to tell of His
preserving, sustaining, pardoning, supplying mercy. Unto His own, God is
“the Father of mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
“When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view I’m lost,
In wonder, love, and praise.”
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Materials are reproduced by permission."
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