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religion. The blessings of the Gospel are not bestowed on unfeeling and unmerciful men, who violate the laws of God and the principles of humanity; but pardon and peace are promised only to those, who through faith in a merciful God and Saviour are merciful themselves. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. To understand these words rightly, it will be necessary to consider,
I. The character of the merciful; and
II. Their blessedness.
We must refer to the Scriptures of truth for an accurate description of the character of the merciful. According to them it consists not merely in a merciful and charitable disposition of mind, but in a merciful and charitable conduct. It does not consist so much in kind and benevolent words and wishes, as in kind and benevolent actions. Justice is one of the highest virtues in a moral sense; but mercy means More than justice in a scriptural sense, because mercy does Moke than strict justice requires.
We find justice and mercy mentioned together in the sacred Scriptures, and they are placed in their natural and proper order ; first, justice, and then, mercy, as a higher degree of Christian excellence and perfection. Thus the Prophet Micah declares in that beautiful and sublime passage, which cannot be too much observed and admired: He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Our Lord himself also intimated the same superiority in his reproof of the Pharisees. Ye have neglected the weightier matters of the law—judgment and mercy.* Justice must evidently be found where there is mercy; for it is impossible that he who is merciful to all, should be unjust to any; or, that he who takes delight in doing good, should be the author of evil in the least respect. In vain, therefore, does any person make pretensions to the greater virtue who does not observe the less. To do justice with mercy is the first great principle of our laws, and of the executive government. In the common acceptation of the word, mercy is goodness or charity exercised towards the afflicted or distressed, who are the proper objects of pity and compassion. The merciful man takes pleasure in relieving the wants and necessities, and alleviating the miseries, of suffering humanity. The merciful man is therefore one who has all the goodness of the Christian character. By the goodness of the Christian character, I mean such a benevolence and good-will towards our fellow-creatures, as proceeds from the true and genuine principles of the Christian religion. The merciful man, in the judgment of God, is merciful out of choice, and from a sense of duty. He desires to be conformable to the divine likeness, and obedient to the divine law. In the performance of this duty, he is strengthened and assisted by the grace of God, actuated by the love of Christ, and animated and encouraged by the promise here given, of present and
eternal blessedness. Not that he supposes there is anything meritorious in his best services, which be well knows are imperfect; but he is convinced, that without the help of divine grace, he is incompetent for any good works, and consequently he disclaims all merit to himself, and ascribes all the goodness and the glory to God in the words of the Apostle: Yet not I, but the grace of God which was given me.*
The merciful man, acting on these principles, and in this manner, bears the nearest resemblance to God of which human nature is capable. We read in the Scriptures of the tender mercies of God, which are over all his works, of his being full of compassion, and of his heart's being turned within him; with many similar expressions, which are evidently used in condescension to human weakness, signifying that the mercy of God operates as effectually as if it immediately sprang from natural affections. From hence, however, we may justly argue, that such natural affections, however incompatible they may be with the divine perfections, are not disgraceful, but highly honourable to human nature in its present state of sin and misery. If what is now called Political Economy require us to restrain as much as possible in ourselves all the feelings and emotions of mercy, it is directly contrary to the precept of the Apostle Paul, who earnestly exhorted the Colossians to whom he wrote, to put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, kindness, and humbleness of mind—as well
* 1 Cor. xv. 10.
as contrary to the precept which our blessed Saviour gave his disciples in these words, Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Having given this general description of the character of the merciful, it will be useful to mention some particular instances in which this character is exhibited and displayed.
The first instance I shall mention, is—mercy to the poor.
There is no age or country in which the observation of our Lord is not verified—The poor ye have always with you. Some there will be whose poverty is unavoidable, although there may be others whose poverty is their fault; and herein the wise and prudent will make a right distinction. What our duty is (as Christians) to such persons, is easy to learn, if we pay due attention to the written word of God. He that despiseth his neighbour, sinneth; but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.* And again: He that oppresseth the poor, reproacheth his Maker; but he that honoureth him, hath mercy on the poor.\ The righteous considereth the cause of the poor, but the wicked regardeth not to know it.$
As to the pious poor, they have a double claim to our assistance and relief, as poor and as religious; and it is directly contrary to the principles both of Piety and Benevolence to suffer any who fear God to want the common necessaries and comforts of life. For whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need,
* Prov. xiv. 21. f Prov. xiv. 31.
% Prov. xxix. 7.
and shutleth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? It is repugnant to all the principles of the Christian religion, as well as to all the sympathies of our common humanity, to see the poor starve and perish for want; and it is our duty, beyond all controversy and dispute, to do good unto all men, and especially unto them who are of the household offaith.
The second instance of this merciful disposition, is the case of those who by some sudden affliction or disastrous calamity are reduced to poverty and distress.,.
Human life is full of uncertainty, and he who is rich and affluent to-day, may be poor and needy to-morrow. Our Saviour's parable of the Good Samaritan is very instructive on this subject, and clearly illustrates the character and conduct of the merciful man towards a fellow-creature in distress. It is expressly said, that the Good Samaritan Iiad mercy on the unfortunate traveller who fell among thieves, was stripped and wounded, and left half-dead. How forcible and impressive is the conclusion drawn from this affecting and beautiful parable !—Go thou and do likewise. This short, but striking address, may serve instead of a thousand arguments; and is much better than a thousand arguments, or a multitude of words, to convince us of our duty to help those who stand in need of the same assistance and relief. Would we therefore knov what is truly meant by being merciful, let this sentence be impressed on our minds, and have a due influence