As God’s love is manifested in grace to sinners, so it is also
manifested as mercy to all who suffer.
This very remarkable Sunday teaches that a Divine purpose of mercy is
working all things for good, and that what seems most sad and terrible
is part of God’s plan, and is not merely consistent with, but is an instance
of love; that we also are to imitate our Heavenly Father in our dealings
with others. The Collect prays that we may so submit to God’s dealings
of mercy here that we may attain all that He is preparing hereafter.
THE EPISTLE. (ROM. viii. 18.)
THE DIVINE MERCY.
This passage contains S. Paul’s confident assertion of the mercy of
A. The Presence of Suffering.
He does not attempt to deny the prevalence of misery both is man and
in the world, which makes it hard to believe that we are under a dispensation
of mercy. He speaks of “the sufferings of this present time;” of
the “vanity,” or apparent failure under which creation groans with men,
and of the troubles even of those who “have the first-fruits of the Spirit.”
But none of these things move him from calm confidence in God’s mercy.
He has cast up the balance of good and evil, and finds it on the right
side. He has as traveller and missionary seen the world at its darkest
and cruellest, and yet, weighing his words carefully and calmly, he says
not” I hope” or “I believe,” but “I reckon.”
B. The Explanation of Suffering.
This is not complete, but is made far easier when we consider—
(1) The Transience of Suffering.
It belongs only to “this present time,” and soon will be a thing of
history and memory only. Thus viewed, it seems as nothing in comparison
with the future state of glory to be “revealed to us-ward.” The present
must be seen as past before it can be regarded in its true proportion.
(2) The Purpose of Suffering.
Suffering is not merely transient, but transitional—i.e., not merely
passing away, but passing on into something better. It is a necessary
stage in a journey; it is part of our education. The future will
not obliterate the past, but will take its character and shape from the
present time, and in great measure from the sufferings of this present
time, and be the unveiling of the previous work of grace made perfect through
sufferings. The vanity, or apparent failure, of creation and its
discontent with the present is the first step towards final deliverance
from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children
of God. Creation’s groans shall issue in creation’s praise and the
groans of saints in the song of final redemption.
(3) The End of Suffering.
THE GOSPEL. (S. LUKE vi. 36.) HUMAN
Restitution shall be no narrower than the Fall, and creation, which
has shared in the consequences of man’s sin, shall be included in man’s
restoration. Even now it waits in earnest expectation the slow development
of the sons of God. Such is S. Paul’s great view of the Divine mercy,
which is not a mere idle sorrow that things are bad, but a mighty process
of amendment, which shall in due time be perfected, and then the mystery
of pain shall be solved in the mystery of love.
Having learned from the Epistle that “our Father is merciful,” we are
taught in the Gospel to show forth deeds of mercy. The mercy of God
is to be the motive, pattern, and measure of our dealings with others.
A. The Wisdom of Mercy.
We cannot judge others without setting up a standard of conduct, and
by this we are to be judged. God will, in fact, make us our own judges,
and will weigh us with our own weights. How foolish, then, to expect
perfection in others and raise the standard on ourselves.
And men will do the same, and they have the advantage of numbers, so
that good or evil will come back multiplied out of all proportion.
Love will pour in on the loving, forgiveness on the forgiving, mercy on
the merciful, so that a man will wonder at “the good measure pressed down,
shaken together, and running over” which men give into his bosom.
On every side a man will meet the reflection of himself.
B. The Wickedness of Judgment.
It is the very inversion of order for the blind to lead the blind, and
for the disciple to usurp the place of the Master. The Master alone
is to be the standard of perfection, and “everyone when he is perfected
shall be as his Master.” We may not, therefore, blame another for not thinking
as we think or not doing as we do. The only question should be, are
they like the Master? and this i5 not for us to ask. To judge is
also to attempt the impossible. Our own failings make us unable to
see the faults of others, and to remove them. Let us remove the beams
of wrong principle, and we shall be able to see the motes of irritating
practice in their true proportion.
Never was our Saviour so scathing in His exposure of any human sin as
here in His denunciation of the critical spirit. We are often told
to take the world as we find it, but our Saviour tells us the deeper truth
that we shall find both this world and the next as we take them, and that
the merciful shall find mercy.
THE COLLECT. A PRAYER FOR MERCY.
A rich prayer for the Divine mercy, evidently suggested by the teachings
of the Epistle.
A. Our Plea for Mercy.
Human weakness cries for mercy from Him without Whom nothing is strong,
not the most earnest resolutions or the most sincere principle.
Human sinfulness cries for mercy from Him without Whom nothing is holy,
not our best efforts or most sacred services.
B. Our Prayer for Mercy.
We pray for the largest possible measure of mercy, and ask that it may
be “increased and multiplied” to cover all our needs. We cannot do
without it, and we cannot have too much.
C. The Desired Result.
We pray for mercy both to rule us and guide us that we may so pass through
this world of sorrow, suffering, and temptation that we may not miss the
things eternal for which the Dvine mercy is preparing. This is an
evident reference to the Epistle, which has taught the Divine purpose of
mercy. We pray that God’s purposes of discipline may be realised
in our own case.