Body of Divinity

By Thomas Watson

7. The HOLINESS of God

The next attribute is God's holiness. "Glorious in holiness." Holiness is the most sparkling jewel of his crown; it is the name by which God is known. "Holy and reverend is his name." He is "the holy One." Seraphim cry, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory." His power makes him mighty; his holiness makes him glorious. God's holiness consists in his perfect love of righteousness, and perfect abhorrence of evil. He is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity."

I. God is holy INTRINSICALLY. He is holy in his nature; his very being is made up of holiness, as light is of the essence of the sun. He is holy in his Word. The Word bears a stamp of his holiness upon it, as the wax bears an impression of the seal. "Your Word is very pure." It is compared to silver refined seven times. Every line in the Word breathes sanctity, it encourages nothing but holiness. God is holy in his works. All he does is holy; he cannot act but like himself; he can no more do an unrighteous action, than the sun can darken. "The Lord is holy in all his works."

II. God is holy PRIMARILY. He is the original and pattern of holiness. Holiness began with him who is the Ancient of Days.

III. God is holy EFFICIENTLY. He is the cause of all that is holiness in others. "Every good and perfect gift comes from above." He made the angels holy. He infused all holiness into Christ's human nature. All the holiness we have, is but a crystal stream from this fountain. We borrow all our holiness from God. As the lights of the sanctuary were lighted from the middle lamp, so all the holiness of others is a lamp lighted from heaven. "I am the Lord who makes you holy." God is not only a pattern of holiness—but he is a principle of holiness. His spring feeds all our cisterns; he drops his holy oil of grace upon us.

IV. God is holy TRANSCENDENTLY. "There is none as holy as the Lord." No angel in heaven can measure the dimensions of God's holiness. The highest seraphim is too low of stature to measure these pyramids; holiness in God is far above holiness in saints or angels.

[1] The holiness of God is above holiness in SAINTS. It is a pure holiness. The saints' holiness is like gold in the ore, imperfect; their humility is stained with pride; he who has most faith needs pray, "Lord, help my unbelief!" But the holiness of God is pure, like wine from the grape; it has not the least dash or tincture of impurity mixed with it. It is an unchangeable holiness. Though the saints cannot lose the principle of holiness (for the seed of God remains in them)—yet they may lose some degrees of their holiness. "You have left your first love." Grace cannot die—yet the flame of it may burn very dim. Holiness in the saints is subject to ebbing—but holiness in God is unchangeable; he never lost a drop of his holiness. As he cannot have more holiness, because he is perfectly holy; so he cannot have less holiness, because he is unchangeably holy.

[2] The holiness of God is above the holiness of ANGELS. Holiness in the angels is only a quality, which may be lost, as we see in the fallen angels; but holiness in God is his essence, he is all over holy, and he can as well lose his Godhead as his holiness.

But is he not privy to all the sins of men? How can he behold their impurities, and not be defiled?

God sees all the sins of men—but is no more defiled with them than the sun is defiled with the vapors which rise from the earth. God sees sin, not as a patron to approve it—but as a judge to punish it.

Use one: Is God so infinitely holy? Then see how unlike to God, sin is. Sin is an unclean thing, it is hyperbolically evil. Sin is called an abomination. God has no mixture of evil in him; sin has no mixture of good. Sin is the quintessence of evil, it turns good into evil. Sin has deflowered the virgin soul, made it red with guilt, and black with filth. Sin is called the accursed thing. No wonder, therefore, that God hates sin, being so unlike to him; nay, so contrary to him. Sin strikes at his holiness; it does all it can to spite God; if sin could help it—God would be God no longer.

Use two: Is God the Holy One, and is holiness his glory? How impious are those who are HATERS of holiness! As the vulture hates perfumes, so they hate the sweet perfume of holiness in the saints; their hearts rise in antipathy against holiness. There is not a greater sign of a person devoted to hell, than to hate one for the thing wherein he is most like God.

Others are despisers of holiness. They despise the glory of the Godhead. "Glorious in holiness." The despising holiness is seen in deriding it; and is it not sad that men should deride that which should save them? Surely, that patient will die who derides the only remedy. Deriding the grace of the Spirit comes near to despising the Spirit of grace. Scoffing Ishmael was cast out of Abraham's house. Such as scoff at holiness, shall be cast out of heaven.

Use three: Is God so infinitely holy? Then let us endeavor to imitate God in holiness. "Be holy, for I am holy." There is a twofold holiness; a holiness of equality, and a holiness of similitude. A holiness of equality, no man or angel can reach to. Who can be equally holy with God? Who can parallel him in sanctity? But there is a holiness of similitude, and that we must aspire after—to have some analogy and resemblance of God's holiness in us—to be as like him in holiness as much as we can. Though a candle does not give so much light as the sun—yet it resembles it. We must imitate God in holiness.

If we must be like God in holiness, wherein does our holiness consist?

In two things. In our suitableness to God's nature, and in our subjection to his will.

Our holiness consists in our suitableness to the nature of God. Hence the saints are said to partake of the divine nature, which is not partaking of his essence—but his image. Herein is the saints' holiness, when they are the lively pictures of God. That is—when they bear the image of God's meekness, mercifulness, heavenliness; when they are of the same judgment with God, of the same disposition; when they love what he loves, and hate what he hates.

Our holiness consists also in our subjection to the will of God. As God's nature is the pattern of holiness; so his will is the rule of holiness. It is our holiness, when we do his will; when we bear his will; when what he inflicts wisely we suffer willingly. Our great care should be, to be like God in holiness. Our holiness should be like God's; as his is a real holiness, ours should be. "Righteousness and true holiness." It should not be the paint of holiness—but the reality of holiness. It should not be like the Egyptian temples, beautified on the outside merely—but like Solomon's temple, gold within, Psalm 45:13. "The king's daughter is all glorious within." That I may press you to resemble God in holiness consider,

(1.) How illustrious every holy person is. He is a mirror in which some of the beams of God's holiness shine forth. We read that Aaron put on his garments for glory and beauty. When we wear the embroidered garment of holiness, it is for glory and beauty. A good Christian is ruddy, being sprinkled with Christ's blood; and white, being adorned with holiness. As the diamond to a ring, so is holiness to the soul. Those who oppose our holiness, cannot but admire it.

(2.) It is the great design God carries on in the world, to make a people like himself in holiness. What are all the showers of ordinances for—but to rain down righteousness upon us, and make us holy? What are the promises for—but to encourage holiness? What is the sending of the Holy Spirit into the world for—but to anoint us with the holy unction? What are all afflictions for—but to make us partakers of God's holiness? What are mercies for—but magnets to draw us to holiness? What is the end of Christ's dying—but that his blood might wash away our unholiness? "Who gave himself for us—to purify unto himself a peculiar people." So that if we are not holy—we cross God's great design in the world.

(3.) Our holiness draws God's heart to us. Holiness is God's image; and God cannot choose but love his image where he sees it. A king loves to see his effigies upon coins. "You love righteousness." And where does righteousness grow—but in a holy heart? "You shall be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delights in you." It was her holiness that drew God's love to her. "They shall call them the holy people." God does not value any for their high birth—but only for their holiness.

(4.) Holiness is the only thing that distinguishes us from the reprobate part of the world. God's people have his seal upon them. "The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, the Lord knows those who are his. And let all who name the name of Christ depart from iniquity." The people of God are sealed with a double seal. Election, "The Lord knows who are his;" and Sanctification, "Let every one depart from iniquity." As a virtuous woman is distinguished from a harlot by her chastity; so holiness distinguishes between the believer and the unbeliever. All who are of God, have Christ for their captain, and holiness is the white color they wear. Heb 2:20.

(5.) Holiness is our honor. Holiness and honor are put together. I Thess 4:4. Dignity goes along with sanctification. "He has washed us from our sins in his blood, and has made us kings unto God." When we are washed and made holy, then we are kings and priests to God. The saints are called vessels of honor; they are called jewels, for the sparkling of their holiness, because filled with wine of the Spirit. This makes them earthly angels.

(6.) Holiness gives us boldness with God. "You shall put away iniquity far from your tabernacles, and shall lift up your face unto God." Lifting up the face is an emblem of boldness. Nothing can make us so ashamed to go to God, as sin. A wicked man in prayer may lift up his hands—but he cannot lift up his face. When Adam had lost his holiness, he lost his confidence with God; he hid himself. But the holy person goes to God as a child to its father; his conscience does not upbraid him with allowing any sin, therefore he can go boldly to the throne of grace, and have mercy to help in time of need.

(7.) Holiness gives peace. Sin raises a storm in the conscience; where there is sin, there is tumult. "There is no peace to the wicked." Righteousness and peace are put together. Holiness is the root which bears this sweet fruit of peace; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

(8.) Holiness leads to heaven. It is the King of heaven's highway. "An highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness." At Rome there were temples of virtue and honor, and all were to go through the temple of virtue—to the temple of honor. Just so, we must go through the temple of holiness to the temple of heaven. Glory begins in virtue. "Who has called us to glory and virtue." Happiness is nothing else but the quintessence of holiness; holiness is glory militant, and happiness holiness triumphant.

What shall we do to resemble God in holiness?

(1.) Have recourse to Christ's blood by faith. This is the washing of the soul. Legal purifications were types and emblems of it. The Scripture is a mirror to show us our sins; Christ's blood is a fountain to wash them away.

(2.) Pray for a holy heart. "Create in me a clean heart, O God." Lay your heart before the Lord, and say, "Lord, my heart is full of leprosy; it defiles all that it touches! Lord, I am not fit to live with such a heart, for I cannot honor you; nor die with such a heart, for I cannot see you. Oh create in me a clean heart; send your Spirit into me, to refine and purify me, that I may be a temple fit for you, the holy God to inhabit!"

(3.) Walk with those who are holy. "He who walks with the wise shall be wise." Be among the spices—and you will absorb their fragrance. Association begets assimilation. Nothing has a greater power and energy to effect holiness, than the communion of saints.


8. The JUSTICE of God

The next attribute is God's justice. All God's attributes are in unity, and are the same with his essence. Though he has several attributes whereby he is made known to us—yet he has but one essence. A cedar tree may have several branches—yet it is but one cedar. So there are several attributes of God whereby we conceive of him—but only one entire essence. Well, then, concerning God's justice. "Just and righteous is he." "His justice and great righteousness." God is said to dwell in justice. "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne." Psalm 89:14. In God, power and justice meet. Power holds the scepter, and justice holds the balance.

I. What is God's justice?

"Justice is to give everyone his due." God's justice is the rectitude of his nature, whereby he is carried to the doing of that which is righteous and equal. "Shall not he render to every man according to his works?" God is an impartial judge. He judges the cause. Men often judge the person—but not the cause; which is not justice—but malice. "I will go down and see whether they have done according to the cry which is come up unto me." When the Lord is upon a punitive act, he weighs things in the balance; he does not punish rashly. Concerning God's justice, I shall lay down these six positions:

[1] God cannot but be just. His holiness is the cause of his justice. Holiness will not allow him to do anything but what is righteous. He can no more be unjust, than he can be unholy.

[2] God's will is the supreme rule of justice; it is the standard of equity. His will is wise and good. God wills nothing but what is just; and therefore it is just, because he wills it.

[3] God does justice, naturally. Justice flows from his nature. Men may act unjustly, because they are bribed or forced to. But God will not be bribed, because of his justice; he cannot be forced, because of his power. He does justice out of love to justice. "You love righteousness."

[4] Justice is the perfection of the divine nature. Aristotle says, "Justice comprehends in it all virtues." To say God is just, is to say, he is all that is excellent; all perfections meet in him, as lines in a center. He is not only just—but justice itself.

[5] God never did nor can do the least wrong to his creatures. God's justice has been wronged—but his justice never did any wrong. God may not act according to the rigor of the law; he abates something of his severity. He might inflict heavier penalties than he does. "You have punished us less than our iniquities deserve." Our mercies are more than we deserve, and our punishments less.

[6] God's justice is such that it is not fit for any man or angel to expostulate with him, or demand a reason of his actions. God has not only authority on his side—but equity. "I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line." Isa 28:17. It is below him to give an account to us, of his proceedings. Which of these two should prevail—God's justice or man's reason? "Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it—Why did you make me like this?" Romans 9:20. The plumb line of our reason is too short—to fathom the depth of God's justice. Rom 11:33. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways!" We are to adore God's justice, where we cannot see the reason of it.

II. God's justice runs in two channels. It is seen in two things, the distribution of rewards and punishments.

[1] In rewarding the virtuous. "Truly there is a reward for the righteous." The saints shall not serve him for nothing; though they may be losers for him, they shall not be losers by him. "God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love, which you have showed to his name." He gives a reward, not because we have deserved it—but because he has promised it.

[2] He is just in punishing offenders. He is just. (1.) Because he punishes sinners by a law. "Where there is no law, there is no transgression." But God has given men a law, and they break it, therefore he punishes them justly. (2.) God is just in punishing the wicked, because he never punished them, but upon full proof and evidence. What greater evidence than for a man's own conscience to be witness against him! There is nothing God charges upon a sinner but conscience sets its seal to the truth of it.

Use one: See here another flower of God's crown—he is just and righteous. He is the exemplar and pattern of justice.

How can it be consistent with God's justice, that the wicked should prosper in the world? "Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do the treacherous live at ease?" Jeremiah 12:1. Such as are highest in sin--are often highest in prosperity. This has led many to question God's justice. Diogenes seeing a thief live on affluently, said, "Surely God has cast off the government of the world, and does not care how things go on here below."

(1.) The wicked may be sometimes instruments to do God's work. Though they do not design his glory—yet they may promote it. Cyrus was instrumental in the building of God's temple in Jerusalem. There is some kind of justice, that they should have a temporal reward. God lets those prosper under whose wing his people are sheltered. God will not be in any man's debt. "Who has kindled a fire on my altar for nothing?"

(2.) God lets men go on in sin, and prosper, that he may leave them more inexcusable. "I gave her space to repent of her fornication." God adjourns the sessions, spins out his mercies towards sinners; and if they repent not, his patience will be a witness against them, and his justice will be more cleared in their condemnation. "That you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge."

(3.) God does not always let the wicked prosper in their sin. Some he punishes openly, that his justice may be taken notice of. "The Lord is known by the judgment which he executes;" that is, his justice is seen by striking men dead in the very act of sin. Thus he struck Zimri and Cozbi in the act of uncleanness.

(4.) If God lets men prosper a while in their sin, his vial of wrath is all this while filling; his sword is all this time sharpening. Though God may forbear with men a while—yet long forbearance is no forgiveness. The longer God is in taking his blow, the heavier it will be at last! As long as there is eternity, God has time enough to reckon with his enemies!

God's justice may be as a sleeping lion—but the lion will awake at last, and roar upon the sinner! Do not Nero, and Julian, and Cain, now meet with God's justice?

But God's own people often suffer great afflictions; they are injured and persecuted. "This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. For I am afflicted all day long, and punished every morning." Psalm 73:12-14. How can this be consistent with God's justice?

(I,) That is a true rule of Austin, "God's ways of judgment are sometimes secret—but never unjust!" The Lord never afflicts his people without a cause; he cannot be unjust towards them. There is some good in the godly, therefore the wicked afflict them; there is some evil in them, therefore God afflicts them. God's own children have their blemishes. "But aren't you also guilty of sins against the Lord your God?" 2 Chronicles 28:10. These spiritual diamonds—have they no flaws? Do we not read of the spots of God's children? Are not they guilty of much pride, censoriousness, passion, worldliness? Though, by their profession, they should resemble the birds of paradise, to fly above, and feed upon the dew of heaven; yet, as the serpent, they lick the dust. These sins of God's people, do more provoke God than the sins of others. "The Lord saw this and was filled with loathing. He was provoked to anger by his own sons and daughters." Deut 32:19. The sins of others pierce Christ's side; the sins of His people wound his heart. Therefore is not God just in all the afflictions which befall them? "You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins." Amos 3:2. I will punish you sooner, surer, sorer, than others.

(2.) The trials and sufferings of the godly, are to refine and purify them. God's furnace is in Zion. Is it any injustice in God to put his gold into the furnace to purify it? Is it any injustice in God, by afflicting his people, to make them partakers of his holiness? What more proclaims God's faithfulness, than to take such a course with them as may make them better? "In faithfulness you have afflicted me."

(3.) What injustice is it in God to inflict a less punishment; in order to prevent a greater punishment? The best of God's children have that in them which is meritorious of hell. Does God do them any wrong, if he uses only the rod, where they have deserved the scorpion? Is the father unjust, if he only corrects his child, who has deserved to be disinherited? If God deals so favorably with his children, he only puts wormwood in their cup, whereas he might put fire and brimstone! They should rather admire his mercy than complain of his injustice.

How can it stand with God's justice, that all men being equally guilty by nature, he does pass by one and save another? Why does he not deal with all alike?

"Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid." "Does the Almighty pervert justice?"

(1.) God is not bound to give an account of his actions to his creatures. If none may question a king, much less God. It is sufficient that God is Lord paramount; he has a sovereign power over his creatures, therefore can do no injustice. "Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor?" God has liberty in his own bosom, to save one, and not another; and his justice is not at all impeached or blemished. If two men owe you money, you may, without any injustice, remit the debt to one, and exact it of the other. If two malefactors are condemned to die, the king may pardon the one and not the other: he is not unjust if he lets one suffer, because he offended the law; nor if he saves the other, because he will make use of his prerogative as he is king.

(2.) Though some are saved and others perish—yet there is no unrighteousness in God; because, whoever perishes, his destruction is of himself. "O Israel, you have destroyed yourself." God offers grace— and the sinner refuses it. Is God bound to give grace? If a surgeon comes to heal a man's wound, and he will not be healed—is the surgeon bound to heal him? "I have called—and you refused." "Israel would not submit to me." Psalm 81:11. God is not bound to force his mercies upon men. If they willfully oppose the offer of grace, their sin is to be regarded as the cause of their perishing, and not God's justice.

Use two: See the difference between God and a great part of the world.

(1.) They are unjust in their courts of law—they pervert justice. "They decree unrighteous decrees." The Hebrew word for a judge's robe signifies prevarication, deceit, or injustice, which is more often true of the judge than of the robe. What is a good law without a good judge? Injustice lies in two things—either not to punish where there is a fault, or, to punish where there is no fault.

(2.) Men are unjust in their dealings. This is, [1] In using false weights. "The balances of deceit are in his hand." It is sad to have the Bible in one hand, and false weights in the other. Or, [2] In adulterating commodities. "Your wine is mixed with water," or when bad grain is mixed with good, and sold for pure grain. I can never believe he is good in the first table of the law—who is not good in the second. He cannot be godly, who is not just. Though God does not bid you be as omnipotent as he is—yet he bids you be as just as he is.

Use three: Imitate God in justice. Let Christ's golden maxim be observed, "in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." Matt 7:12. You would not have them wrong you—neither must you wrong them; rather suffer wrong—than do wrong. "Why do you not rather be wronged?" Oh be exemplary for justice! Let justice be your ornament. "I put on righteousness (namely, justice) as a robe and a diadem." A robe for its graceful beauty; and I put it on, [and I was clothed in righteousness]. A judge puts on his robe, and takes it off again at night; but Job did so put on justice, as he did not take it off until death. We must not lay off this robe of justice until we lay down our bodies in the grave. If you have anything of God in you, you will be like him. By every unjust action, you deny yourselves to be Christians, you stain the glory of your profession. Heathen will rise up in judgement against you. The sun might sooner alter his course, than God could be turned from doing justice.

Use four: If God is just, there will be a day of judgement. Now things are out of course; sin is rampant, saints are wronged, they are often defeated in a righteous cause, they can meet with no justice here, justice is turned into wormwood. But there is a day coming, when God will set things right; he will do every man justice; he will crown the righteous, and condemn the wicked. "He has appointed a day in which he will judge the world" If God is a just God, he will take vengeance. God has given men a law to live by, and they break it. There must be a day for the execution of offenders. A law not executed is but like a wooden dagger—for a show. At the last day, God's sword shall be drawn out against offenders; then his justice shall be revealed before all the world. "God will judge the world in righteousness." "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" The wicked shall drink a sea of wrath—but not sip one drop of injustice! At that day shall all mouths be stopped, and God's justice shall be fully vindicated from all the cavils and clamors of unjust men.

Use five: Comfort to the true penitent. As God is a just God, he will pardon him. If man acknowledges his sin—God spares him. "If we confess our sins (that is confess and forsake), he is just to forgive us our sins." God is not only merciful, but just. Why just? Because he has promised to forgive such. "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." Proverbs 28:13. If your heart has been broken for and from sin—you may not only plead God's mercy—but his justice for the pardoning of your sin. Show him his promise, and he cannot deny himself.


9. The MERCY of God.

The next attribute is God's goodness or mercy. Mercy is the result and effect—of God's goodness. So then this is the next attribute, God's goodness or mercy. The most learned of the heathens thought they gave their God Jupiter two golden characters when they styled him good and great. Both these meet in God, goodness and greatness; mercy and majesty. God is essentially good in himself, and relatively good to us. "You are good, and do good." This relative goodness is nothing else but his mercy, which is an innate propensity in God to pity and support such as are in misery.

I. Concerning God's mercy, I shall lay down these twelve positions.

[1] It is the great design of the Scripture to represent God as merciful. This is a loadstone to draw sinners to him. "I am the Lord, I am the Lord, the merciful and gracious God. I am slow to anger and rich in unfailing love and faithfulness. I show this unfailing love to many thousands by forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. Even so I do not leave sin unpunished." Exodus 34:6-7. Here are six expressions to set forth God's mercy, and but one to set forth his justice. "God's mercy is far above the heavens." God is represented as a king, with a rainbow about his throne. Rev 4:4. The rainbow was an emblem of mercy. The Scripture represents God in white robes of mercy—more often than with garments rolled in blood; with his golden scepter—more often than his iron rod.

[2] God is more inclined to mercy, than wrath. Mercy is his darling attribute, which he most delights in. "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy." Micah 7:18. Mercy pleases him. "It is delightful to the mother," says Chrysostom, "to have her breasts drawn; so it is to God to have the breasts of his mercy drawn." "Fury is not in me," that is, I do not delight in it. Acts of severity are rather forced from God; he does not afflict willingly. "For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men." Lamentations 3:33.

The bee naturally gives honey, it stings only when it is provoked. Just so, God does not punish until he can bear no longer. "So that the Lord could bear no longer, because of the evil of your doings." Mercy is God's right hand that he is most used to; inflicting punishment is called his "strange work." He is not used to it. When the Lord would shave off the pride of a nation, he is said to use a hired razor, as if he had none of his own. "On that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—to shave the head, the hair on the legs, and to remove the beard as well." Isaiah 7:20. "He is slow to anger," but "ready to forgive."

[3] There is no condition—but we may spy mercy in it. When the church was in captivity, she cried out, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed." Geographers write of Syracuse in Sicily, that it is so situated that the sun is never out of sight. In all afflictions we may see some sunshine of mercy. That outward and inward troubles do not come together is mercy.

[4] Mercy sweetens all God's other attributes. God's holiness without mercy, and his justice without mercy—would be dreadful. When the water was bitter, and Israel could not drink, Moses cast a tree into the waters, and then they were made sweet. How bitter and dreadful were the other attributes of God—did not mercy sweeten them! Mercy sets God's power on work to help us; it makes his justice become our friend.

[5] God's mercy is one of the most orient pearls of his crown; it makes his Godhead appear amiable and lovely. When Moses said to God, "I beseech you—show me your glory;" the Lord answered him, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will show you mercy." God's mercy is his glory. His holiness makes him illustrious; his mercy makes him endearing.

[6] Even the worst people taste God's mercy. Such as fight against God's mercy, taste of it; the wicked have some crumbs from mercy's table. "The Lord is good to all." Sweet dewdrops are on the thistle, as well as on the rose. The diocese where mercy visits is very large. Pharaoh's head was crowned, though his heart was hardened.

[7] Mercy coming to us in salvation, is sweetest. It was mercy that God would give Israel rain, and bread to the full, and peace, and victory over their enemies—but it was a greater mercy that God would be their God. To have health is a mercy—but to have Christ and salvation is a greater mercy. Saving mercy, is like the diamond in the ring, which casts a more sparkling luster.

[8] One act of mercy engages God to another. Men argue thus, "I have shown you kindness already, therefore trouble me no more." But, because God has shown saving mercy, he is more ready still to show mercy. His mercy in election makes him justify, adopt, glorify; one act of mercy engages God to more. A parent's love to his child makes him always giving.

[9] All the mercy in the creature is derived from God, and is but a drop from this ocean. The mercy and pity a mother has to her child, is from God; he who puts the milk in her breast puts the compassion in her heart. God is called, "The Father of mercies," because he begets all the mercies in the world. If God has put any kindness into the creature, how much kindness is in him who is the Father of mercy!

[10] As God's mercy makes the saints happy—so it should make them humble. Mercy is not the fruit of our goodness—but the fruit of God's goodness. Mercy is a gift which God bestows. They have no cause to be proud, who live upon the alms of God's mercy. "If I am righteous—yet will I not lift up my head." That is, all my righteousness is the effect of God's mercy, therefore I will be humble and will not lift up my head.

[11] Mercy stays the speedy execution of God's justice. Sinners continually provoke God, and make "the fury come up in his face." Why is it, that God does not immediately arrest and condemn them? It is not that God cannot do it, for he is armed with omnipotence—but it is from his mercy. Mercy gets a reprieve for the sinner—and stops the speedy process of justice. God would, by his goodness, lead sinners to repentance.

[12] It is dreadful to have mercy as a witness against any one. It was sad with Haman, when the queen herself accused him. So will it be when this queen of mercy shall stand up against a person and accuse him! It is only mercy that saves a sinner; how sad then to have mercy become an enemy! If mercy is an accuser, who shall be our advocate? The sinner never escapes hell, when mercy draws up the indictment.

I might show you several kinds of mercy—as preventing mercy, sparing mercy, supplying mercy, guiding mercy, accepting mercy, healing mercy, quickening mercy, supporting mercy, forgiving mercy, correcting mercy, comforting mercy, delivering mercy, crowning mercy; but I shall speak of,

II. The qualifications or PROPERTIES of God's mercy.

[1] God's mercy is FREE. To set up merit—is to destroy mercy. We cannot deserve mercy, because we are polluted in our blood; nor can we force God to show mercy—for then it would not be mercy. We may force God to punish us—but not to love us. "I will love them freely." Every link in the chain of salvation is wrought and interwoven with free grace. Election is free. "He has chosen us in him, according to the good pleasure of his will." Justification is free. "Being justified freely by his grace." Salvation is free. "According to his mercy he saved us." Do not say, "I am unworthy, therefore I cannot be saved;" for mercy is free. If God would show mercy to such only as are worthy—he would show no mercy at all.

[2] God's mercy is an overflowing mercy; it is INFINITE. "Plenteous in mercy." "Rich in mercy." "Multitude of mercies." The vial of wrath drops—but the fountain of mercy runs in streams. The sun is not so full of light—as God is of mercy. God has morning mercies. "His mercies are new every morning." He has night mercies. "In the night his song shall be with me." God has mercies under heaven, which we taste; and in heaven, which we hope for.

[3] God's mercy is ETERNAL. "The mercy of the Lord is from eternity to eternity." Psalm 103:17. "His mercy endures forever," is repeated twenty-six times in Psalm 136. The souls of the blessed shall be ever bathing themselves in this sweet and pleasant ocean of God's mercy! God's anger to his children lasts but a while, "but his mercy lasts forever." As long as he is God, he will be showing mercy. As his mercy is overflowing, so it is ever-flowing.

Use one: We are to look upon God in PRAYER, not in his judgment robes—but clothed with a rainbow full of mercy and clemency. Add wings to prayer. When Jesus Christ ascended up to heaven, that which made him go up there with joy was, "I go to my Father!" Just so, that which should make our hearts ascend with joy in prayer, is, "We are going to the Father of mercy, who sits upon the throne of grace!" Go to prayer with confidence in God's mercy; as a cold person goes to a fire, saying, "it will warm me, not burn me."

Use two: BELIEVE in his mercy. "I will trust in the mercy of God forever." God's mercy is an open fountain. Let down the bucket of faith—and you may drink of this fountain of salvation. What greater encouragement to believe—than God's mercy? God counts it his glory to be scattering pardons; he is desirous that sinners should touch the golden scepter of his mercy, and live. This willingness in God to show mercy appears two ways:

(1.) By entreating sinners to come and lay hold on his mercy. "Whoever will, let him come, and take the water of life freely." Mercy woos sinners, it even kneels down to beg them. It would be strange for a prince to beg a condemned man to accept of pardon. God says, "Poor sinner, allow me to love you, be willing to let me save you."

(2.) By his joyfulness when sinners lay hold on his mercy. What is God the better, whether we receive his mercy or not? What is the fountain profited that others drink of it? Yet such is God's goodness, that he rejoices at the salvation of sinners, and is glad when his mercy is accepted! When the prodigal son came home the father was glad, and made a feast to express his joy; so, God rejoices when a poor sinner comes in, and lays hold of his mercy. What an encouragement is here to believe in God! He is a God of pardons. "You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and full of unfailing love and mercy." Neh 9:17. Mercy pleases him. "Where is another God like you, who pardons the sins of the survivors among his people? You cannot stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing mercy." Micah 7:18.

Nothing harms us but unbelief. Unbelief stops the current of God's mercy from running. It shuts up God's affections, closes the orifice of Christ's wounds, so that no healing virtue will come out. "He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief." Why do you not believe in God's mercy? Do your sins discourage you? God's mercy can pardon great sins, nay, because they are great. "For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great." Psalm 25:11. The sea covers the rocks as well as the sands. Some who had a hand in crucifying Christ, found mercy. As far as the heavens are above the earth, so far is God's mercy above our sins! What will entice us to believe, if not the mercy of God?

Use three: Take heed of ABUSING the mercy of God. Do not suck poison, out of the sweet flower of God's mercy. Do not think that because God is merciful, you may go on in sin; this is to make God's mercy your enemy. None might touch the ark but the priests, who by their office were more holy. Just so, none may touch the ark of God's mercy, but such as are resolved to be holy. To sin because God's mercy abounds—is the devil's logic! He who sins because of God's mercy—is like one who wounds his head because he has a plaster. He who sins because of God's mercy—shall have judgement without mercy. Mercy abused, turns to fury. "Let none of those who hear the warnings of this curse consider themselves immune, thinking, 'I am safe, even though I am walking in my own stubborn way.' This would lead to utter ruin! The Lord will not pardon such people. His anger and jealousy will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will come down on them!" Deuteronomy 29:19-20.

Nothing is colder than lead when taken out of the mine; and nothing more scalding when it is heated. Nothing is blunter than iron—yet nothing is sharper when it is whetted. Just so, nothing is sweeter than mercy—when it is improved; yet nothing is fiercer than mercy—when it is abused! "The mercy of the Lord is upon those who fear him." Mercy is not for those who sin and fear not—but for those who fear and sin not. God's mercy is a holy mercy; where it pardons it sanctifies.

What shall we do to be savingly interested in God's mercy?

(1.) Be sensible of your needs. See how much you stand in need of pardoning, saving mercy. See yourselves as orphans. "In you, the fatherless find mercy." God bestows the alms of mercy only on such as are indigent. Be emptied of all opinion of self-worthiness. God pours the golden oil of mercy into empty vessels.

(2.) Go to God for mercy. "Have mercy upon me, O God!" "Do not put me off with common mercy, which reprobates may have! Give me not only acorns but pearls! Give me not only mercy to feed and clothe me—but mercy to save me! Give me the cream of your mercies! Lord! let me have saving mercy and loving-kindness. Give me such mercy as speaks your electing love to my soul."

"Who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies." Oh pray for mercy! God has treasures of mercy! Prayer is the key which opens these treasures; and in prayer, be sure to carry Christ in your arms, for all the mercy comes through Christ! "So Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the Lord as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the Lord to help Israel—and the Lord answered." 1 Samuel 7:9. Carry the lamb Christ in your arms, go in his name, present his merits; say, "Lord! here is Christ's blood, which is the price of my pardon! Lord! show me mercy, because Christ has purchased it!" Though God may refuse us when we come for mercy in our own name—yet he will not when we come in Christ's name. Plead Christ's atonement; this is an argument which God cannot deny.

Use four: Such as have found mercy are exhorted to three things—

(1.) To be upon Gerizim—the mount of blessing and praising. They have not only heard the King of heaven is merciful—but they have found it so! The honeycomb of God's mercy has dropped upon them! When in needs, mercy supplied them; when they were near unto death, mercy raised them from the sick-bed; when covered with guilt, mercy pardoned them. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!" Oh, how should the vessels of mercy run over with praise! "I used to scoff at the name of Christ. I hunted down his people, harming them in every way I could. But God had mercy on me." 1 Timothy 1:13. "I am a miracle of mercy! As the sea overflows and breaks down the banks, so the mercy of God broke down the banks of my sin, and mercy sweetly flowed into my soul!"

You who have been monuments of God's mercy—should be trumpets of praise! You who have tasted the Lord is gracious, tell others what experiences you have had of God's mercy, that you may encourage them to seek to him, for mercy. "I will tell you what God has done for my soul." "When I found my heart dead, God's Spirit came upon me mightily, and the blowing of that wind made the withering flowers of my grace revive!" Oh tell others of God's goodness, that you may set others blessing him, and that you may make God's praises live when you are dead.

(2.) To love God. Mercy should be the attraction of love. "I will love you, O Lord, my strength." The Hebrew word for love signifies, to love out of the inward affections. God's justice may make us fear him, his mercy makes us love him. If God's mercy will not produce love, what will? We are to love God for giving us our food, much more for giving us grace. We are to love God for sparing mercy, much more for saving mercy. Surely, that heart is made of marble, which the mercy of God will not dissolve into love. "I would hate my own soul," says Augustine, "if I did not find it loving God."

(3.) To imitate God in showing mercy. As God is the Father of mercy, show yourselves to be his children—by being like him. Ambrose says, "The sum and definition of true religion is—Be rich in works of mercy, be helpful to the bodies and souls of others. Scatter your golden seeds; let the lamp of your profession be filled with the oil of love. Be merciful in giving and forgiving." "Be merciful—as your heavenly Father is merciful."


10. The TRUTH of God.

The next attribute is God's truth. "A God of truth and without iniquity; just and righteous is he." "For your mercy is great unto the heavens, and your truth unto the clouds." "Plenteous in truth."

God is the truth. He is true in a physical sense; true in his being: he has a real subsistence, and gives a being to others. He is true in a moral sense; he is truth without error; truth without deceit. God is prima veritas, the pattern and prototype of truth. There is nothing true but what is in God—or comes from God.

I shall speak of God's truth, as it is taken from his veracity in making good his promises. "There has not failed one word of all his good promise." The promise is God's pledge; God's truth is the seal set to his pledge.

There are two things to be observed in the promises of God to comfort us.

[1] Observe he POWER of God, whereby he is able to fulfill the promise. God has promised to subdue our corruption. "He will subdue our iniquities." Oh, says a believer, my corruption is so strong, that I am sure I shall never get the mastery of it. Abraham looked at God's power. "Being fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able to perform." He believed that God, who could make a world, could make Sarah's dry breasts give suck. It is faith's support—that there is nothing too hard for God. He who could bring water out of a rock, is able to bring to pass his promises.

[2] Observe the TRUTH of God, in the promises. God's truth is the seal set to the promise. "In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie has promised." 'Eternal life'—there is the sweetness of the promise. 'God which cannot lie'—there is the certainty of it. Mercy makes the promise; truth fulfills the promise. God's providences are uncertain—but his promises are the 'sure mercies of David." "God is not a man who he should change." The word of a prince cannot always be taken—but God's promise is inviolable. God's truth is one of the richest jewels of his crown, and he has pawned it in a promise. "Although my house be not so with God—yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure." 'Although my house be not so,' that is, though I fail much of that exact purity the Lord requires—yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, that he will pardon, adopt, and glorify me; and this covenant is ordered in all things and sure.

"The elements shall melt with fervent heat;" but God's covenant abides firm and inviolable, being sealed with the truth of God. Nay, God has added to his word his oath—wherein he pawns his being, life, and righteousness to make good the promise. If as often as we break our vows with God, he would break promise with us, it would be very deplorable. But his truth is engaged in his promise, therefore it is like the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be altered. "We are not," says Chrysostom, "to believe our senses so much as we are to believe the promises." Our senses may fail us—but the promise cannot, being built upon the truth of God. God will not deceive the faith of his people; nay, he cannot. "God, who cannot lie, has promised." He can as well part with his Deity—as his verity. God is said to be abundant in truth. Exod 34:6. What does that signify? If God has made a promise of mercy to his people, he will be so far from coming short of his word—that he will be better than his word. He often does more than he has said—but never less. He is abundant in truth.

(1.) The Lord may sometimes delay a promise—but he will never deny a promise. He may delay a promise. God's promise may lie a good while, as seed under ground—but at last it will spring up into a crop. He promised to deliver Israel from the iron furnace—but this promise was over four hundred years in travail, before it gave birth. Simeon had a promise that he should not depart, "until he had seen the Lord's Christ." But it was a long time coming. But a little before his death—he did see Christ. Though God delays the promise—he will never deny a promise. Having given his bond—in due time the money will be paid.

(2.) God may change his promise—but he will not break it. Sometimes God changes a temporal promise, into a spiritual promise. "The Lord shall give that which is good." This may not be fulfilled in a temporal sense—but a spiritual sense. God may let a Christian be cut short in temporals—but he makes it up in spirituals. If he does not increase the basket and the store, he gives increase of faith, and inward peace. Here he changes his promise—but he does not break it; he gives that which is better. If a man promises to pay me in farthings, and he pays me in a better coin, as in gold, he does not break his promise. "I will not allow my faithfulness to fail." In the Hebrew it is, "I will not allow my faithfulness to lie."

How does it consist with the truth of God, that he "wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"—and yet some still perish?

Augustine understands it, not of every individual person—but some of all kinds of people shall be saved. As in the ark, God saved all the living creatures; not every individual bird or fish was saved, for many perished in the flood; but all, that is, some of every kind were saved. In this sense, God will have all to be saved, that is—some out of each of nations.

It is said, Christ died for all. "He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." How does this consist with God's truth, when some are vessels of wrath? Rom 9:92.

(1.) We must qualify the term world. The world is taken either in a limited sense, for the world of the elect; or in a larger sense, for both elect and reprobates. "Christ takes away the sins of the world," that is, the world of the elect.

(2.) We must qualify also Christ's dying for the world. Christ died sufficiently for all, not effectually. There is the value of Christ's blood, and the virtue of Christ's blood. Christ's blood has value enough to redeem the whole world—but the virtue of it is applied only to such as believe. Christ's blood has the value to save all, but it is not efficacious for all. All are not saved, because some put away salvation from them, "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles." Acts 13:46. Others vilify Christ's blood, counting it an unholy thing.

Use one: The truth of God, is a great pillar for our faith. Were he not a God of truth—we could not believe him—our faith would be an empty dream. But he is truth itself, and not a word which he has spoken shall fall to the ground.

The truth of God, is the object of trust. The truth of God is an immovable rock, on which we may venture our salvation. Isa 59:15, "Truth fails," that is—truth on earth fails—but not truth in heaven. God can as well cease to be God, as cease to be true. Has God said, he "will do good to the soul who seeks him," and he will "give rest to the weary." Here is a safe anchor-hold, he will not alter the thing which has gone out of his lips. The truth of the God of heaven is engaged for believers. Can we have better security? The whole earth hangs upon the word of God's power—and shall not our faith hang upon the word of God's truth? Where can we rest our faith, but upon God's faithfulness? There is nothing else we can securely believe in, but the truth of God. To trust in ourselves is to build upon quick sands; but the truth of God is a golden pillar for faith to rest upon. God cannot deny himself. "If we believe not—yet he abides faithful; he cannot deny himself." Not to believe God's veracity, is to affront God. "He who believes not, has made God a liar." A person of honor cannot be more affronted or provoked, than when he is not believed, and called a liar. He who denies God's truth, says that God's promise is no better than a forged deed. Can there be a greater affront offered to God?

Use two: If God is a God of truth, he is true to his THREATENINGS. The threatenings are a flying scroll against sinners. God has threatened, "Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies, the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins." Psalm 68:21. He has threatened to judge adulterers. Heb 13:3. To be avenged upon the malicious. Psalm 10:14, "You behold mischief and spite, to requite it with your own hand;" and to "rain fire and brimstone upon the sinner." God is as true to his threatenings as to his promises. To show his truth, he has executed his threatenings, and let his thunderbolts of judgment fall upon sinners in this life. He struck Herod in the act of his pride. He has punished blasphemers. Olympius, an Arian bishop, reproached and blasphemed the blessed Trinity, and immediately lightning fell down from the heaven upon him and consumed him. Let us fear the threatening that we may not feel it.

Use three: Is God a God of truth? Let us be like God in truth.

(1.) We must be true in our WORDS. Pythagoras being asked what made men like God, answered, "When they speak truth." It is the distinction of a man who shall go to heaven, that "He speaks the truth in his heart."

Truth in our words, is opposed to all LYING. "Putting away lying, speak everyone truth to his neighbor." Lying is when one speaks that as truth, which he knows to be false. A liar is most opposite to the God of truth. There are, as Augustine says, two sorts of lies. There is an officious lie—when a man tells a lie for his profit; as, when a tradesman says his commodity cost him so much, when perhaps it did not cost him half so much. He who will lie in his trade—shall lie in hell. There is a jesting lie—when a man tells a lie in sport, to make others merry—and goes laughing to hell. He who tells a lie makes himself like the devil. "The devil is a liar, and the father of lies." John 8:44. He deceived our first parents by a lie. Some are so wicked, that they will not only speak an untruth—but will swear to it; nay, they will wish a curse upon themselves, if that untruth is not true.

I have read of a woman, one Anne Avarie, who in 1575, being in a shop, wished that she might die, if she had not paid for the wares she took, and fell down speechless immediately and died. A liar is not fit to live in a commonwealth. Lying takes away all society and converse with men. How can you converse with a man—when you cannot believe what he says? Lying shuts men out of heaven. "Outside are dogs, and whoever loves and makes a lie."

As it is a great sin to tell a lie—so it is a worse sin to teach a lie. "The prophet that teaches lies." He who teaches error, teaches lies. He spreads the plague; he not only damns himself—but helps to damn others!

Truth in our words, is opposed to all DECEIT. The heart and tongue should go together, as the dial goes exactly with the sun. To speak fair to one's face, and not to mean what one speaks, is no better than a lie. "His words were smoother than oil—but war was in his heart." Some have an art to flatter and deceive. Jerome, speaking of the Arians, says, "they pretended friendship, they kissed my hands—but plotted mischief against me." "A man who flatters his neighbor, spreads a net for his feet." Deadly poison can be hidden under sweet honey. Falsehood in friendship, is a lie. Counterfeiting friendship, is worse than counterfeiting money.

(2.) We must be true in our PROFESSION of religion. Let practice go along with profession. "Righteousness and true holiness." Hypocrisy in religion is a lie. The hypocrite is like a face in a mirror, which is the 'show of a face'—but no true face. He makes show of holiness—but has no truth in it. Ephraim pretended to be that which he was not; and what does God say of him? "Ephraim compasses me about with lies." By a lie in our words, we deny the truth; by a lie in our profession, we disgrace the truth. Not to be to God what we profess to others—is telling a lie; and the Scripture makes it little better than blasphemy. "I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews—and are not."

Oh! I beseech you, labor to be like God. He is a God of truth. He can as well part with his Deity—as his verity. Be like God, be true in your words, be true in your profession. God's children are children that will not lie. When God sees "truth in the inward parts," and "lips in which is no deceit," he sees his own image—which draws his heart towards us. Likeness produces love.