Sermon 1907. 'The Tender Mercy of Our God'
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, June 27th, 1886, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins through the tender mercy of our God; wherebythe dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death to guideour feet into the way of peace."-Luke 1:77-79.
OBSERVE HOW ZACHARIAS, in this his joyful song, extolled the remission of sins, as one of the most extraordinary proofs ofthe tender mercy of our God. He had been dumb for a season, as a chastisement for his unbelief; and therefore he used hisrecovered speech to sing of pardoning mercy. No salvation is possible without forgiveness, and so Zacharias says, "To giveknowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins." The Lord could not forgive them onthe ground of justice, and therefore he did so because of his tender mercy-the tender mercy of our God, who has made himself"our God" by the covenant of grace. He passes by the transgression of his people because he delighteth in mercy. At the veryoutset, I want any soul here that is burdened with sin to believe in the forgiveness of sins, and to believe in it becauseGod is love, and has a great tenderness towards the work of his hands. He is so pitiful that he loves not to condemn theguilty, but looks with anxious care upon them to see how he can turn away his wrath and restore them to favor. For thisreason alone there is remission of sins. Forgiveness comes not to us through any merit of ours, present or foreseen; but onlythrough the tender mercy of our God, and the marvellous visit of love which came of it. If he be gracious enough to forgiveour sins, it can be done; for every arrangement is already made to accomplish it. The Lord is gracious enough for this-foranything. Behold him in Christ Jesus, and there we see him as full of compassion. We sang just now, and sang most truly-
"His heart is made of tenderness,
His bowels melt with love."
The main point of this morning's sermon will be to bring out into prominence those few words, "the tender mercy of our God." To me they gleam with kindly light: I see in them a soft radiance, as of those matchless pearls whereof the gates of heavenare made. There is an exceeding melody to my ear as well as to my heart in that word "tender." "Mercy" is music, and "tendermercy" is the most exquisite form of it, especially to a broken heart. To one who is despondentand despairing, this word is life from the dead. A great sinner, much bruised by the lashes of conscience, will bend hisear this way, and cry, "Let me hear again the dulcet sound of these words, tender mercy." If you think of this tenderness in connection with God, it will strike you with wonder, for an instant, that one so greatshould be so tender; for we are apt to impute to Omnipotence a crushing energy, which can scarcely take account of little,and feeble, and suffering things.Yet if we think again, the surprise will disappear, and we shall see, with a new wonder of admiration, that it must beso. He that is truly great among men is tender because he is great in heart as well as in brain and hand. The truly greatspirit is always gentle; and because God is so infinitely great, he is, therefore, tender. We read of his gentleness and ofhis tenderness towards the children of men; and we see them displayed to their full in the gospel of our salvation. Very conspicuousis this "tender mercy of our God."
Now, the original word is, "The mercy of the heart of our God." The evangelists, though they wrote in Greek, carried withthem into that language the idioms of the Hebrew tongue; so that they do not use an adjective, as it would seem from our translation-"tendermercy;" but they say, mercy of the bowels, or of the inwards, or of the heart of God. "The mercy of the heart of God" is tobe seen in the remission of sin, and in the visitation of his love when he comes to usas "the dayspring from on high." Great is the tenderness of divine mercy.
But I call your attention to the original reading because it seems to me not only to mean tenderness, but much more. The mercyof the heart of God is, of course, the mercy of his great tenderness, the mercy of his infinite gentleness and consideration;but other thoughts also come forth from the expression, like bees from a hive. It means the mercy of God's very soul. Theheart is the seat and center of life, and mercy is to God as his own life. "I have no pleasure in thedeath of him that dieth, saith the Lord God." God is love: not only is he loving, but he is love itself. Mercy is of thedivine essence: there is no God apart from his heart, and mercy lies in the heart of God. He has bound up his mercy with hisexistence: as surely as God lives, he will grant remission of sins to those who turn unto him.
Nor is this all-the mercy of God's heart means his hearty mercy, his cordial delight in mercy. Remission of sins is a businessinto which the Lord throws his heart. He forgives with an intensity of will, and readiness of soul. God made heaven and earthwith his fingers, but he gave his Son with his heart in order that he might save sinners. The Eternal God has thrown his wholesoul into the business of redeeming men. If you desire to see God most Godlike, it is in thepardon of sin, and the saving of men. If you desire to read the character of God written out in capital letters, you muststudy the visitation of his love in the person of his dear Son, and all the wonderful works of infinite grace which springtherefrom. It is a grand sight to behold God in earnest when he says, "Now will I arise." With awe we watch him as he laysbare his arm: but this full energy of power is best seen when his work is grace. When he stirs up his strength to come andsave us,and brings the essence of his being into intense action to bless us, we are favored indeed. It is this watching to dous good, this eagerness to bless us, which is meant by the mercy of his heart. It is not only tenderness, but intensity, heartiness,eagerness, delight, and concentration of power. All this is to be seen in the dealing of God with guilty men when he visitsthem to grant them the remission of their sins.
Just as the leader of our psalmody sometimes sounds his tuning-fork at the commencement of our song, so have I done in theseopening remarks. "Tender mercy" is the key-note of my discourse, I want you to keep it still in your ears. Whatever else ofmelody there may come from the text, yet this is to be the chief note: the tender, hearty, intense mercy of God, which hehas shown to us.
I. In the first place, I invite you to observe that he shows this tender mercy in that HE DEIGNS TO VISIT US. "Through thetender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us."
Observe that God has not merely pitied us from a distance, and sent us relief by way of the ladder which Jacob saw, but hehath himself visited us. It needs no studied language to preach from this text, the expressions themselves are full of holy thought. A visit from God, what must it be! "Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?"A visit from the Queen would be remembered by most of you all your lives: youwould feel yourselves half ennobled. But a visit from God, what shall I say of it?-that he should stoop to leave his highabode, and the majesty wherein he reigns, to visit insignificant beings like ourselves? This Bible is a letter from him, andwe prize it beyond the finest gold; but an actual visit from God himself, what shall we say of such a favor?
In what ways has the Lord shown his tender mercy in deigning to visit us?
I answer, first, God's great visit to us is the incarnation of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Many visits of God to men had been paid before that-read your Bibles, and see; but the most wonderful visit of all was whenhe came to tarry here, some thirty years and more, to work out our salvation. What but "tender mercy," hearty mercy, intensemercy, could bring the great God to visit us so closely that he actually assumed our nature? Kings may visit theirsubjects, but they do not think of taking upon themselves their poverty, sickness, or sorrow: they could not if they would,and would not if they could; this were more than we could expect from them. But our divine Lord, when he came hither, cameinto our flesh. He veiled his Godhead in a robe of our inferior clay. O children! the Lord so visited you as to become a babe,and then a child, who dwelt with his parents, and was subject unto them, and grew in stature, as you must do. O working men!the Lord so visited you as to become the carpenter's son, and to know all about your toil, and your weariness, ay, evento hunger and faintness. O sons of men! Jesus Christ has visited you so as to be tempted in all points like as you are, thoughwithout sin. He really assumed our nature, and thus paid to us a very close visit. He took our sickness, and bare our infirmities.This was a kind of visit such as none could have thought of granting save the infinitely tender and merciful God. The manis our next kinsman, a brother born for adversity; in all our affliction he is afflicted; he is tenderness itself.
Remember that he not only took our nature, but he dwelt among us in this world of sin and sorrow. This great Prince enteredour abode-what if I call it this hut and hovel?-wherein our poor humanity finds its home for a season. This little planetof ours was made to burn with a superior light among its sister stars while the Creator sojourned here in human form. He trodthe acres of Samaria, and traversed the hills of Judea. "He went about doing good." He mingled amongmen with scarcely any reservation; being through his purity separate from sinners as to his character, yet he was thevisitor of all men. He was found eating bread with a Pharisee, which perhaps is a more wonderful thing than when he receivedsinners, and ate with them. A fallen woman was not too far gone for him to sit on the kerb of the well, and talk to her; norwere any of the poor and ignorant too mean for him to care for them. He was bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, andhis visitto us was therefore of the most intimate kind. He disdained no man's lowliness; he turned aside from no man's sin.
But remember that he visited us not merely to look upon us, and to talk with us, and to teach us, and set us a high and divineexample, which, as I have said, were incomparably gracious, if it went no further; but he so visited us that he went downinto our condemnation, that he might deliver us from it. He was made a curse for us, as it is written, "Cursed is every onethat hangeth on a tree." He took our debts upon him that he might pay them, minting his own heart tocreate the coinage. He gave himself for us, which is more than if I said, "he gave his blood and his life;" his own selfhe gave. So did he visit us that he took away with him our ill, and left all good behind. He did not come into our nature,and yet keep himself reserved from all the consequences of our sin; nor come into our world, and yet maintain a status superiorto the usual denizens of it; but he came to be a man among men, and to bear all that train of woes which had fallen upon humannature through its departure from the ways of God. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, because theLord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all. Our Lord so visited us as to become our surety and our ransom. This was awonderful piece of tender mercy indeed. I feel at this moment as if I could not talk about it, for it excels all conceptionand speech. Even if I were not full of pain, the subject would master me. If for the first time you had heard of the visitof theIncarnate God to this world, you would be struck with a wonder which would last throughout all eternity, that God himselfshould really condescend to such a deed as this. This is the heart of the gospel-the incomparable fact of the incarnationof the Son of God, his dwelling upon the earth, and his presentation of himself as a sacrifice unto God. You need no flourishof words; do but hear the bare statement of the fact, and leap for joy because of it. Since God has visited us, not in formofvengeance, nor as a cherub with a flaming sword, but in the gentle person of that lowliest of the lowly, who said, "Sufferlittle children to come unto me," we are herein made to see the tender mercy of our God. Nothing could be more tender thanthe divine appearance of the Man of Sorrows.
But I do not think we ought to insist upon this as the only visit of God's tender mercy, since the text is in the RevisedVersion rendered in the future: "The tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high shall visit us." To thisday we are visited of God in other respects, but with equal mercy. The proclamation of the gospel in a nation, or to any individual, is a visit of God's mercy. Whenever you come and hear the gospel, be you sure of this,whether you receive it or not, the kingdom of God has come nigh unto you. Even if you stop your ears, and will have noneof it, yet God has visited you in tender mercy, in that by the gospel he tells you that there is a way of salvation, thatthere is a plan for the remission of sin. It is a monstrosity-what if I say a miracle?-of iniquity, that men having sinned,and God having done so much to work out a way of remission of those sins, men should refuse to accept God's pardoning love.Oh,my hearers, Why are you so besotted? Wherefore do you hate your own souls? Surely, the devils themselves would at thefirst have scarce believed it, that there could exist a race of creatures so hardened as to refuse the love which visits themin grace. This is what devils never did. Men sin not only against God, but against their own interest, when they turn asidefrom the wooings of disinterested goodness, and refuse salvation through him who loved us even to the death. That which Godhas sotenderly and heartily wrought out in the gift of his dear Son to die for us ought to be received with eagerness. Willnot you receive it? My dear hearers, you shall not go out of this place this morning without knowing that God in great tender mercyhath visited you by the blessed fact of your having heard the good tidings of free grace. Jesus seeks you, will you not seekhim?
But, blessed be his name, he has visited some of us in a more remarkable manner still, for by the Holy Spirit he has entered into our hearts, and changed the current of our lives. He has turned our affections towards that which is right by enlightening our judgments.He has led us to the confession of sin, he has brought us to the acceptance of his mercy through the atoning blood; and sohe has truly saved us. What a visit is this! This visit of the Holy Ghost, whenhe comes to dwell in us, is surpassingly condescending. I have often said that I never know which to admire most, theincarnation of the Son of God, or the indwelling of the Spirit of God. This last is a wonderful condescension, for the HolyGhost does not take a pure body of his own, but he makes our bodies to be his temples; he dwells not only in one of these,but in tens of thousands; and that not only by the space of thirty years, but throughout the whole life of the believer. Hedwellethin us notwithstanding all our provocations and rebellions. Mark the word, not only with us, but in us, and that evermore. Oh, this tender mercy! Who can describe it? Sweet Spirit, gentle Spirit, how canst thou abide withme? O heavenly Dove, how canst thou find rest in such a soul as mine? Yet without thee we are undone, and therefore we adorethe tender mercy which makes thee bear with us so long, and work in us so graciously till thou hast conformed us to the imageof the Firstborn. Weare melted by the love of the Spirit-the communion of the Holy Spirit, by which the Lord hath visited us.
Often and often, since our first visitation by the Lord, I trust we have had special visits from him, bringing with them rapturous joys, singular deliverances, and countless blessings. "The love of God is shed abroad in ourhearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." The Lord has visited us in the night: he has drawn nigh unto our spirit,and so he has preserved us. We have enjoyed near and dear communion with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. Have wenot? This hath often happened when we have been in great trouble. When we were depressed in spirit, when we were burdenedwith unusual cares, or weeping over heart-breaking bereavements, the mercy of our God has made the dayspring from on highto visit us at just such times; and therein we have seen his tenderness. Our life is bright with these visits as the sky withstars. I cannot enlarge upon this charming theme, but I leave it to your thoughts, O you whose experience will be the bestsermonon the text! The visits of God to his own children are proofs of the heartiness, the intensity, the tenderness of hismercy. Talk of it, ye who have had most enjoyment of such visits!
II. I call your attention now to a second point. There is so much sea-room here that one scarce knows which way to steer.Secondly, he shows his tender mercy in that HE VISITS US AS THE DAYSPRING FROM ON HIGH. This means the dawning in the east,the rising of the sun at break of day. He does not come to us in Christ, or by his Spirit, as a tempest, as when he came fromParan, with ten thousand of his holy ones, in all the pomp of his fiery law; but he has visited us assmiling morn, which in gentle glory floods the world with joy.
While this gospel visitation is thus apparently less in splendor than that of the law, yet it is not deficient in efficacyor in true glory. God has not visited us as a candle, which might suffice to cheer our darkness but could not change it intoday. David rejoiced, saying, "The Lord will light my candle;" but in this we go far beyond him: we need no candle, for theLord has visited us with the day-dawn.
He has come, moreover, not as a blaze which will soon die down, but as a light which will last our day, yea, last for ever.After the long dark and cold night of our misery, the Lord cometh in the fittest and most effectual manner; neither as lightning,nor candle, nor flaming meteor, but as the sun which begins the day.
The visitation of the Lord to us is as the dayspring, because it suits our eye. Observe how the eye is suited to the light, and the light to the eye, in the economy of nature; and it is even so in therealm of grace. Day, when it first breaks in the east, has not the blaze of burning noon about it; but it peeps forth as agrey light, which gradually increases to the perfect day. So did the Lord Jesus Christ come: dimly as it were, at first, atBethlehem, butby-and-by he will appear in all the glory of the Father. So doth the Spirit of God come to us in gradual progress. Thereis sweet suitableness in the grace of God to the heart, and in the renewed heart to the grace of God. He hath abounded towardsus in all wisdom and prudence. The revelation of God to each individual is made in form and manner tenderly agreeable to thecondition and capacity of the favored one. I sometimes think the gospel was made exactly to meet my case. Do you not thinkthesame of it yourselves? The morning light suits your eye as exactly as if there were no other creature to behold it; andso in divine tenderness the Lord has made his visits suitable to our sorrow, and even to our weakness. He shows us just somuch of himself as to delight us without utterly overwhelming us with the excess of brightness. He might have come in themajesty of his grace to us at the first, as he does to us afterwards; but then we were not able to bear it, and so he forbore.We arenow more ready to sup with him upon strong meat, and so he puts us upon men's fare; whereas before he gave us milk, whichis more convenient for babes. All the visits of God to us are merciful, but in those of the dawn of grace we see tendernessas well as mercy.
The visits of God are like the dayspring, because they end our darkness. The dayspring banishes the night. Without noise or effort, it removes the ebon blackness, and sows the earth with orientpearl. Night stretches her bat's wings, and is gone: she flies before the arrows of the advancing sun; and the coming of Jesusto us, when he does really come into our hearts, takes away the darkness of ignorance, sorrow, carelessness, fear, and despair.Our night is endedonce for all when we behold God visiting us in Christ Jesus. Our day may cloud over, but night will not return. O, youthat are in the blackest midnight, if you can but get a view of Christ, morning will have come to you! There is no light foryou elsewhere, believe us in this; but if Jesus be seen by faith, you shall need no candles of human confidence, nor sparksof feelings and impressions: the beholding of Christ shall be the ending of all night for you. "They looked unto him, andwerelightened: and their faces were not ashamed."
I like to think of Christ as coming into the world as the morning light, because he comes with such a largeness of present blessing-blessing immeasurable, unlimited. Some are always for measuring out Christ: they can never do without estimates of how much,and how far. Truly our Lord comes to save his elect, that I do verily believe; but hence certain friends would allot so manybeams of light to so many eyes, and limit the light by the number of those who rejoicein it. Not so, beloved, Jesus is the light of the world; he comes from on high to shed light over the whole universe,even as the sun goeth forth from one end of heaven to the other, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. He appearsas the light which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world: there is no other light. Whosoever is willing to receivethat light is free to do so: yea, he shines on blind eyes. This light comes even to those who hate it, and thus they are leftwithout excuse: "the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not," and "this is the condemnation,that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil." When the Lordcomes to men, his blessings are infinite. You might as well take your three feet rule, and begin to measure the length andbreadth of the sunlight as measure the length and breadth of the tender mercy of our God in the revelation of our Lord JesusChrist.
When the Lord visits us, it is as the dayspring, because he brings us hope of greater glory yet to come. The first coming of Christ has not at once manifested everything; the dayspring is not the noon; but it is the sure guaranteeof it; and so is the First Advent the pledge of the glory to be revealed. The sun never rises in error to set upon a sudden:he rises to complete his course, as the strong man cometh out of his chamber to fulfill his race. When we receivea visit from the Lord, it may be in the way of rebuke, or of feeble hope; but let us be patient, for the dawn shall growwith constant increase of light, and there is no fear of its dying down into the old sinful darkness. "Sacred, high, eternalnoon" is the destiny of all those whose eyes have beheld the Christ, so as to rejoice in his light.
Now all this seems to me to be a wonderful instance of the tenderness of divine mercy. Think you not so? This coming of theLord, and of his light, so gradually, and yet so lavishly; so fittingly, and yet so effectually; does it not fill you withgratitude? Every little bird rejoices in the rising of the sun: God has made that great orb to rise so graciously that noteven a sparrow trembles at it, but chirps with confidence its happy praises. Not even a little flowertrembles because the great sun is about to flood the heavens, but God hath so made the sun to rise that every tiny cupof every flower that blooms opens to drink in the golden light, and is refreshed thereby. The coming of Christ is just suchto us, even to the least and feeblest of us. It is not a stupendous blessing, crushing us by its enormous weight; it is nota mysterious revelation, confounding us by its profundity; but it is simplicity itself, gentleness itself; none the less,but allthe more grand and sublime because it is so simple and so tender. Let us bless God this morning, then, that he visitsus, and that when he visits us, it is as the dayspring from on high.
III. Thirdly, there is another instance of great tenderness in this, in that THE LORD VISITS US IN OUR VERY LOWEST ESTATE.Permit me to read the text to you-"To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins," from whichit appears that God comes to visit us when we are in our sins. If the plan of salvation were that we were to get out of our sins, and then God would come to us, it might be full of mercy,but it would not be tendermercy. Let it never be forgotten that "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." "Godcommendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." I feel always at home when I get uponthis blessed topic of the visits of God to undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving sinners. His saving visits spring fromgrace, pure grace, altogether unmixed with any merit or claim on our part. God comes to us as the morning, which does notwaitfor man, nor tarry for the sons of men. I cannot bear the spirit which I see spreading among us in reference to almsgiving.It should not be indiscriminate, but it should be bounteous. Many cry, "We shall give help only to the deserving." If Godwere to adopt that rule, where would you and I be? It has even been muttered in an undertone that, with regard to hospitals,no doubt they are used by persons who ought to provide for themselves, and so help to support struggling medical men. It maybeso; but I like not the hard and niggardly spirit which suggests such criticisms. Talk not so; this is fit chatter forbarbarians. Those who know the tender mercy of God will recollect that, when we ourselves had no good about us whatsoever,his tender mercy visited us, even as the sun ariseth upon the just and upon the unjust. He giveth with gladness to those whohave no deservings of any kind. He will not mar the magnificence of his goodness by asking our pitiful pence of merit as apaymentfor it; but he giveth freely, according to the riches of his grace. As he makes his rain to water the fields of the miserand of the churl, as well as those of the kind and the generous, so doth he give his bounty to the worst of men. Let us learnthis, and imitate it, for thus we shall know the tender mercy of God. To copy the divine example will be the surest methodof coming to an understanding of it.
Furthermore, our God visits us when we are in darkness; when we are in such darkness as to know nothing, see nothing, believe nothing, hope nothing; even then the Lord's mercy comesto us. Is not this tenderness? "Educate a man up to a certain point," says one, "and then we may hope that God's grace willvisit him." Educate him by all means, but have hope that God may visit even those who have no education of any sort. "Followthe advance of civilization," criesone, "and do not risk your missionaries among barbarians." Not so; our marching orders are, "Preach the gospel to everycreature." The gospel is to precede and produce civilization. To them that sit in darkness, the Lord is pleased to send thedayspring from on high. To send light where there is light is superfluous. Have we not a proverb about sending coals to Newcastle?God sendeth not grace to us because we have already something which may be viewed as prevenient and preparatory; but theprevenient and the preparatory are of his grace, and he comes in love to bring these with him, to those who as yet knownothing of his light and life. They are in the dark, and he creates their day.
Did you notice that it is said "to those that sit in darkness?" This is more than being in the dark. The man who sits in darkness does so because he feels that his case is hopeless, and therefore he forbears all further action. A poor benightedtraveler has wandered this way and that to find a track, but it is so dark that he cannot perceive his road; and so at lasthe embraces the rock for want of a shelter, crouching to the earth in despair. It is a part ofthe tender mercy of our God that he visits those who despond and are motionless in a dread inactivity. Those who havelost hope are lost indeed, and such the Savior has come to save.
Then it is added, "and in the shadow of death." Did you ever feel that shadow? It has a horrible influence. Chill and cold, it freezes the marrow of the bones, and stopsthe genial current of life in the veins. Death stands over the man, and if his hand does not smite, yet his shadow darkensjoy, and chills hope, benumbing the heart, and making life itself a mode of death. The shadow of death is confusion of mind,depression of spirit, dread of the unknown, horrorat the past, and terror of the future. Are any of you at this time bowing down under the shadow of death? Has hell gapedwide, and opened her jaws for you? Have you in your despair made a league with death, and a covenant with hell? Thus saiththe Lord, "Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand;" for the Lord hascome forth, and visited you in the person of his dear Son to deliver the captive, and save those who are appointed unto death.Knowing your guilt, the Lord visits you this morning, and bids you look up. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh awaythe sin of the world." Look and live; look, and be delivered at once, even from the horrible deathshadow which now broodsover you. I do delight to think of this tender mercy of God to those who are lost. There are lost that shall be found, andlast that shall be first. You seem forgotten of God, left out of the register of hope, but yet to you has Jesus come-"to givelightto them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death." Is not this tender mercy? If he had not come to shine on such I should never have been saved. A gospel for the cheerful would never have metmy case; I wanted a gospel for the despairing. I know some here who must have perished if the gospel had only been suitableto those who are of good character, and have the beginnings of natural religion within them. Only a sinner's Savior wouldhave suited some of you, or, indeed, any of us.As the good Samaritan did to the wounded man, "he came where he was," so did Jesus come to us in our ruin. The benefactorof the wounded did not stand and say to him, "Come here, and get on my beast, and he shall carry you to the inn." But he wentto him when he was lying half dead, and therefore helpless; and he poured the oil and wine into his wounds while the poorwretch could not move an inch, nor stir hand or foot. He bound up his wounds, and then set him on his own beast, and tookhim tothe inn. This is tender mercy; and in this fashion Jesus deals with us. He does everything for us from the very beginning.He is Alpha, even as he must be Omega. Does not this show the tender mercy of our God, that he does come to us in the darkness,and under the grim shadow of death, and there and then reveals his love to us?
IV. Both time and strength fail me, so now I must finish with a fourth reflection from the text-Our God shows his tender mercyin that HE VISITS US WITH SUCH WONDERFUL AND JOYFUL RESULTS-"to give light to them that sit in darkness, to guide our feetinto the way of peace." One sketch must suffice. Help me as I make an outline. Imagine a caravan in the desert, which haslong lost its way, and is famishing. The sun has long gone down, and the darkness has caused everyone's heart to droop. All around them is a waste of sand, and an Egyptian darkness. There they must remain and die unlessthey can find the track. They feel themselves to be in a fearful case, for, hungry and thirsty, their soul fainteth in them.They cannot even sleep for fear. Heavier and heavier the night comes down, and the damps are on the tents chilling the soulsof the travelers. What is to be done? How they watch! Alas, no star comforts them! At last the watchmen cry, "The morningcometh." It breaks over the sea of sand, and, what is better, it reveals a heap which had been set up as a way-mark, andthe travelers have found the track. The dayspring has saved them from swift destruction by discovering the way of peace.
Our point is this, that when the Lord Jesus Christ visits us, he actually brings light to our darkness; really leads intothe way, and makes that way a way of peace to us. Put all together, and remember what the Lord has done for you. You did notknow the way once, and all the preaching in the world would not have made you know it, if Jesus had not by his Spirit visitedyou as the dayspring. When you did know the way, you could not reach it of yourself: you saw it as froma distance, and could not enter upon it, but when Jesus came near, he actually guided your feet into that way. He putyour feet upon a rock, and established your goings. That way, good as it was, would have been to you a way of doubt, and fear,and hesitation, if the Lord had not so sweetly shone upon you that your road became a way of perfect peace. Peace in our textmeans prosperity, plenty, rest, joy. I ask you, friends, whether you have not found it so. Since the Lord has visited you,haveyou not gone forth with joy, and been led forth with peace?
Well, now, the conclusion of all this is a practical matter. If the tender mercy of God has visited us, and done so much morefor us than I can tell, or than you can hear, let us ourselves exhibit tender mercy in our dealings with our fellow-men. Itis a wretched business for a man to call himself a Christian, and have a soul which never peeps out from between his own ribs.It is horrible to be living to be saved, living to get to heaven, living to enjoy religion, and yetnever to live to bless others, and ease the misery of a moaning world. Do you not know that it is all nonsense to regardreligion as a selfish spiritual trade by which we save our own souls? It is useless to hope for peace till you know how tolove. Whence come wars and fightings but from a want of love? Unless your religion tears you away from yourself, and makesyou live for something nobler than even your own spiritual good, you have not passed out of the darkness into the light ofGod. Onlythe way of unselfishness is the way of peace. I ask you, therefore, today to think very tenderly of all poor people. Theseare hard times; let those who have more than they actually want be ready always to relieve distress, which is very urgentjust now.
The call this morning is for liberal help to our hospitals. These are called in France "houses of God;" truly they are Godlikein their design. There is not a man here but may be in a hospital to-morrow. Do you reply that you are a wealthy man? Yetyou may be run over in the street, or fall in a fit, and the hospital's door is open to you. It is not merely for the beggar,but for the noble, that this is a refuge. Many a time men of immense wealth have had to be carried tothe hospital from injury inflicted by fire or water, accident, or sudden sickness. I appeal to your selfishness, and toyour honor: pay your proportion towards a common protection.
But I appeal to you on higher grounds. I forget just now how many thousands of cases of accident have gone into the hospitalduring the past year, but it is very surprising. They never ask who they are, or where they come from, but receive all thewounded. Every great accident involves a huge expense upon the hospital which is near the spot. This is not sufficiently thoughtof, or there would be special contributions on each sad occasion. Few consider how these nobleinstitutions are supported. "Oh, the rich people give to them!" Alas, the rich people often forget them! "Oh, but thesegeneral collections will do the work!" No such thing! It is such a pitiful contribution which usually makes up a collectionthat the hospitals are little aided thereby. These institutions are left to run into debt, or spend their capital, or keeptheir beds empty. I could not too strongly put the case of hospitals just now. I have half wished that the Government wouldundertake them, only I am not sure that they would be so well conducted in that case as when they are left to privatemanagement by hearts that feel for men. Something must be done. We must give a great deal more; the collections ought to beat least twice as much in all our churches and chapels as they have ever been. If you were present when a man was run over,and you heard his bone break, you would put your hand into your pocket, or do anything else in your power to help him. I wishI couldmake you feel in the presence of such a calamity for a minute, so as to touch your hearts and your hands. Diseases arealways abroad, and driving thousands to seek hospital help. I would like to take you down a ward, and cause you to listento the stories told from half-a-dozen beds. What sickness! What poverty caused by sickness! What pains poor bodies are capableof enduring! Oh, come, let us help them! Let us give to the support of those who nurse them, and for the help of those whoexercisetheir best skill for their relief. Who can withhold? By the tender mercy of our God, I charge you to give freely to thisexcellent cause. As the box goes round, remember that this is not the time for threepenny-pieces. You who are wealthy mustwrite cheques or give notes, and you may send them to our treasurer if you prefer it. All must be generous for the sake ofthat tender mercy which is the dayspring of our hope and life.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Matthew 8:1-18.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-912, 328, 195.