May the Lord grant Onesiphorus His mercy on that day. You know very well how much he ministered to me in Ephesus.
I. THE KINDNESS OF ONESPHORUS. "He oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was at Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me."
1. The apostle, as well as Timothy, had had an earlier experience of this good man, who was probably an Ephesian merchant, who went from time to time to Rome to do business, for he says, "In how many things he ministered at Ephesus, thou knowest very well."
2. He did not probably come to Rome from Ephesus for the special purpose of visiting the apostle, but, having found himself there, he made it his business to visit the apostle.
(1) He took pains to find out the apostle. "He sought me out very diligently." Why was it so difficult to discover the prison in which the apostle was confined? There were many prisons in Rome, and he may have been transferred from prison to prison. But where were the Roman Christians who met the apostle on his first visit to the city, that they could not inform Onesiphorus of the place of the imprisonment? Had they too turned away from him? Or had Nero struck an unworthy terror into their hearts? Onesiphorus persevered, however, in his search, and found him in his prison.
(2) He "oft refreshed the apostle, and was not ashamed of his chain." This implies
(a) that he visited him more than once;
(b) that the imprisonment, though severe, did not quite debar all access to the outside world;
(c) that the Christians at Rome were impliedly ashamed of the apostles' chain, else such prominence would not have been given to the kindness and courage of this noble Ephesian saint.
II. THE RETURN WHICH THE APOSTLE MAKES FOR THE KINDNESS OF ONESIPHORUS. "The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus... the Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day." He cannot make any other return for kindness than a fervent prayer for Onesiphorus and for his family.
1. The prayer suggests that though the apostle is shut up from the world, the way to heaven is still open. He cannot pay his visitor the compliment of seeing him to the door, but he can remember him at a throne of grace.
2. He remembers the household of this good man. What blessings descend upon householders who are blessed with such a head! The apostle prays for "mercy" on this happy household. Every blessing is included in the term.
3. The prayer for Onesiphorus himself is likewise a prayer for mercy. Some have inferred that he was now dead, and that we have here an example of prayer for a dead man. The supposition is entirely gratuitous. Onesiphorus may have been absent from Ephesus, as he necessarily was on his visit to the apostle. Besides, his visit to the apostle, must have occurred only a very short time previously, for it is admitted on all hands that the apostle's last imprisonment was very brief, and it is rather improbable that Onesiphorus should have died immediately after his visit to Rome, or that the apostle should have heard of it. Oncsiphorus would have the blessing promised by our Lord in the memorable saying, "I was in prison, and ye visited me." - T.C.
The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.I. MERCY is a word we are often using, especially in our prayers. But there are some of us, perhaps, who have no very clear ideas of what mercy is. I must remind you again, that it is not mere kindness or goodness. To ask God to show us mercy is not simply to ask God to do us good. Such a petition includes in it a confession of our wretchedness and our guiltiness; for observe, misery is the proper object of mercy. Mercy, in the strict sense of the word, is kindness exercised towards the wretched; but then there is another use of the term and a more common one. Because our guilt is our greatest misery, mercy often signifies in Scripture pity shown to the guilty; in other words the forgiveness of our sins. In some respects mercy resembles goodness. It is indeed the very same thing, only its object is different. God is good to all, and always has been so; but He was never merciful, till misery appeared needing His compassion. He is good in heaven; every angel there feels and proclaims Him such: but there is no mercy in heaven, for there is no guilt there or wretchedness. And then again mercy is closely allied to grace. If it differs from it at all, it is in this — when we speak of grace, we have respect chiefly to the motive of the giver; when of mercy, to the condition or character of the receiver. Look at God, and then we call mercy grace; look at a man, poor, abject, guilty man, and then we call grace mercy. You see, then, that mercy is the perfection of the Divine goodness. It is that branch or exercise of it, which goes the farthest and does the most. It is goodness blessing us when we merit cursing, and saving us when we are well-nigh lost. Hence, God is said in the Scripture to "delight in mercy." His goodness can expand itself in it. He finds in it the freest scope, the largest indulgence, of His benevolence. It is not merely the work, it is the enjoyment, the feast and triumph, of His love. And you see also here another fact, that no man can ever deserve mercy. We often put these two words together, but we ought not to do so; there is a positive contradiction between them. Mercy is grace. It is kindness towards one who has no claim whatever to kindness and is totally undeserving of it.
II. Let us pass on now to THE DAY THE APOSTLE SPEAKS OF. And observe — he does not describe this day; he does not even tell us what day he means: but there is no misunderstanding him: he means the last great day, the day when God will raise the dead and judge the world.
1. The apostle's thoughts were often dwelling on this day; it was a day very frequently in his contemplation. His mind had evidently become familiar with the prospect of it, and so familiar, that he could not help speaking of it as he would of any well-known and much thought of thing. And so it seems really to have been in the early ages of the Christian Church. We put the day of judgment far from us; we regard it as a day that will certainly come, but after so great an interval of time, that the thought of it need not press on us; but not so the first believers. Their minds were fastened on this day. They "looked for" it; that is, they were like men looking out anxiously in the east for the first dawn of some long wished for day, like men climbing the lofty mountain to get the first sight of the rising sun on some festal morning. They "hastened unto" it; that is again, they would have met it if they could. But there is something else implied in this expression.
2. It intimates also that this day is a most important one. There is the idea of pre-eminence contained in his language. We feel as soon as we begin to think, that we cannot estimate as we ought the importance of this day. It will affect every body and every thing on the face of the earth, and to the greatest possible extent. Other days are important to some, but this wilt be important to all.
III. Turn now to HIS PRAYER. He brings together in it, you observe, the mercy and the day we have been considering. We cannot enter into the spirit of this prayer, unless we keep in mind throughout the character of this Onesiphorus. He was evidently a real Christian. And these kind offices, we may fairly presume, he rendered to the apostle for his Master's sake. This kind. ness under such trying circumstances, this steadfastness and boldness in the face of shame and danger, were the fruits of his faith in Jesus. They are evidences that he was not only a sincere believer in the gospel, but a man of extraordinary faith and love. The inference, then, that we draw from this prayer is this obvious one — our final salvation, the deliverance of even the best of men in the great day of the Lord, will be aa act of mercy. It is sometimes spoken of as an act of justice, and such it really is, if we view it in reference to the Lord Jesus. Before he made His soul an offering for sin, it was promised Him that this stupendous sacrifice should not be made in vain. And the Scripture speaks of our salvation as a righteous thing in another sense — the Lord Jesus has led His people to expect it. But look to the text. The apostle implores in it mercy in that day for his godly friend; and what does he mean? If he means anything, he means this — that after all it must be mercy, free and abounding mercy, that must save that friend, if he is ever saved. He can talk of justice and of righteousness as he looks at his Master on His throne, and remembers what He has done and promised; but when he looks on a fellow-sinner, he loses sight of justice altogether, and can speak of mercy only. And observe, too, how this is said. It is not cold language. It is language coming warm from a most tender and deeply grateful heart. The good works of this man were all before Paul at this time — his boldness in Christ's cause, his steadfastness, his kindness; the apostle's mind was evidently filled with admiration of him, and his heart glowing with love towards him; yet what in this ardour of feeling does he say? The Lord recompense him after his works? No; he sees in this devoted Christian of Ephesus a miserable sinner like himself, one going soon to Christ's judgment-seat, and his only prayer for him is, that he may find mercy there.
1. We all still need mercy. There is a notion that a sinner once pardoned, has done with this blessed thing; that he may cease to seek it, and almost cease to think of it. It is error, and gross error. We can never have done with mercy As long as we are in the way to heaven; or rather, mercy will never have done with us. And notice also this remarkable fact — in all his other epistles, the salutation of this apostle to his friends is, "Grace unto you and peace"; but when he writes to Timothy and Tiros, men like himself, faithful and beloved, eminent in Christ's Church, he alters this salutation. As though to force on our minds the point I am urging — A conviction that the holiest of men still need God's mercy — he adds this word "mercy" to the other two. In each of these epistles his salutation runs, "Grace, mercy, and peace."
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
I. THERE IS A DAY COMING, WHICH, FROM ITS TRANSCENDENT IMPORTANCE, MERITS THE EMPHATIC DESIGNATION OF "THAT DAY." And does not this day deserve the emphatic mention which is here made of it? Compared with every other period in the history of the universe, does it not stand out in unparalleled importance? There are days in the life of every one which, from the event s that transpire in them, are invested with great and merited importance to the individual himself — such as the day of his birth, and of his death. But there is something in the day of final and universal retribution that sinks into obscurity any other eventful period in the history of man. The day of our birth introduces us into a scene empty and shadowy, both in its joys and sorrows, and proverbially brief and transitory in its duration; that day ushers us into a state of being, in which we shall be conversant no more with the dreams only, but with the living realities of perfect felicity or woe, and conversant with them through a duration endless as the reign of the Eternal itself. The day of our death is chiefly interesting to ourselves, and to the little circle who have been connected with us by the ties of kindred or love; the day of judgment is supremely interesting to any rational being who has lived and breathed on the face of our world — A day when the eternal destiny of the whole human race shall be determined with unparalleled publicity and solemnity. How important are those days, in the opinion of men, which have witnessed the fall or the rise of empires. How important was the day that dawned on the tribes of Israel marching from under the yoke of their Egyptian bondage — A day that ever afterwards was held sacred to commemorate their deliverance! How eventful that day that rose on the fall of the Assyrian monarchy, and beheld the empire of the East pass from Belshazzar and his impious race into the hands of the mild and virtuous Cyrus! How painfully memorable, at least to the nation immediately concerned, was the day that beheld the final destruction of Jerusalem, and the rejection and dispersion of its devoted race! How important to these lands of our nativity, and how worthy to be held in grateful remembrance, that day which witnessed the consummation of the glorious struggle that terminated in the vindication and establishment of our civil and religious liberties! But do you not feel that all these days, whether of transient or permanent importance, are so utterly insignificant, when viewed in relation to that day, that the comparison involves in it a kind of incongruity, and is truly a lowering of the awful dignity of the subject? There are but two periods in the history of the world that can be consistently compared, in point of importance to men, with that day — the day that dawned on the creation of our race, which was hailed by the sweet acclaim of the angelic hosts and the day that shone on the birth of the Son of God. In every aspect in which we can view them, these were days big with consequence to the human family; but they were only the introductory scenes to the consummation of the mightiest drama that ever was, or will be, performed on the theatre of the world.
II. ON THAT DAY THE MERCY OF THE LORD WILL DE REGARDED BY ALL AS UNSPEAKABLY PRECIOUS. The mercy of the Lord is, in this world, regarded in a very different light by the various classes of men, if we may judge of their sentiments and opinions from their uniform practice. The great mass of mankind demonstrate by their conduct that, whatever may be their occasional fears and desires, the prevailing habit of their mind is an utter indifference either to the mercy or vengeance of God. But there are a few who are honourably distinguished by different sentiments, who avow it as their opinion, and evince their sincerity by a corresponding practice, that they esteem everything under heaven as utter vanity compared with the mercy of the Lord. And they who have practically esteemed the mercy of the Lord so highly in this world, will value it the more at that terrible day. With all their successful efforts, by the grace of God, to prepare their souls to meet the Lord in peace, and to be found without spot and blameless at His coming, they will impressively feel themselves still to be the objects of His mercy. Yes, and at that day Paul and his fellow-believers will not be singular in prizing the mercy of the Lord. Much as sinners have despised the mercy of the Lord here, they will then despise it no more.
III. IN THE MIND OF A CHRISTIAN, THAT DAY POSSESSES TREMENDOUS CONSEQUENCE, AND TOWARDS IT HIS EYE IS HABITUALLY DIRECTED. Such consequence did this day possess in St. Paul's view, that the importance of everything on earth was estimated by its remote or immediate relation to it. Did he, from the hour of his conversion, despise all distinctions of wealth and honour when brought into competition with the knowledge of Christ? It was, that by any means he might attain to a blessed resurrection on that day. Did he practise the most painful and persevering self-denial; or, to use his own words, did he keep under his body and bring it into subjection? It was, that he might not be found disapproved on that day. Was he not ashamed of the sufferings he endured for the gospel? It was because he knew in whom he had believed, and was persuaded that He was able to keep that which He had committed unto him against that day. Did he labour in season and out of season, warning every man, and teaching every man? It was that he might present every man perfect in Christ on that day. Did he muse on the number and steadfastness of his converts? He thought of them as his hope and joy and crown of rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coining at that day. Did he engage in prayer for his converts? It was that the Lord might make them to increase and abound in love, to the end that He might establish their hearts unblameable in holiness at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all His saints, on that day.
IV. ENLIGHTENED CHRISTIAN AFFECTION IS ESPECIALLY SOLICITOUS ABOUT THE ETERNAL WELL BEING OF ITS OBJECTS. Deeply did the grateful and generous heart of Paul feel the kindness of Onesiphorus. There is no doubt he loved him before as a disciple, and very likely as a personal friend; but his conduct, when he visited Rome, awakened still deeper emotions of gratitude and affection towards him in the bosom of the apostle. And how did he express this sense of the kindness of Onesiphorus? Did he employ all his influence to improve the temporal fortune of his benefactor? Did he request his noble converts in the palace — for some such there were of the emperor's household — to exert their power to procure for Onesiphorus some post of honour and emolument in the civil or military establishment of Rome? Or did he write to the Ephesian Church, to which this person probably belonged, enjoining them to prepare some temporal reward, to be given to their deserving countryman for his kindness to himself? No; Paul attached too much importance to the solemnities of the last day and its immediate consequences; he was too much influenced by the scenes of the world to come, to ask for his beloved comforter so poor, so miserable a recompense. He loved him too well to solicit for him a fading, when he might ask for him an unfading crown. He knew too well the worth of his soul, the importance of an eternal well-being, to overlook these for the trifles for an hour, in his desire to reward him.
V. GENUINE SAINTS HAVE IT EVER IN THEIR POWER TO REWARD THEIR BENEFACTORS. Looking at Paul as a poor despised prisoner in Rome, accused before the emperor of heresy and sedition, befriended by none but by a proscribed and despised sect, which was everywhere spoken against, with all the prejudice of the emperor, and the influence of the Jewish nation strenuously exerted against him — looking at Paul in this light one would speedily conclude, on the principles of the world, that he was a very unlikely person richly to reward his benefactors. But ten thousand times rather would I have laid this poor and apparently helpless captive under obligations to me by kindness to him, than have merited, by the most splendid civil or military services, the gratitude and reward of him who wore the imperial purple. What could Nero, even with a world at his nod, have conferred upon me? He might have lavished upon me all the favours of the imperial court. He might have made me the idol of fortune, and the envy of the proudest of the Roman nobility. He might have given me the conduct of the most honourable expeditions. He might have invested me with the command of the richest of the provinces. Paul had no imperial power or influence; he had even no imperial favour; but he was a favourite in a higher court, where he was every day, almost every hour, an acceptable visitant. He was one of those whose effectual fervent prayer reached the heavenly temple, and, through the channel of the atonement, drew down eternal blessings on his soul, and on the souls of those for whom he interceded. In conclusion, there is one inference very naturally suggested by the last remarks: If these statements are true, how wise it is, setting aside the pure love of benevolence altogether, to be kind to the people of God, especially to the pious poor!
(J. Mc Gilchrist.)I. THAT THERE IS A DAY COMING, IN WHICH TO FIND MERCY OF THE LORD, WILL BE OUR ONLY CONSOLATION AND SECURITY.
1. The day here meant is the day so frequently mentioned in Scripture; and in which we are all most deeply concerned. It is described by many different names, as "the Day of Judgment," "the Day of the Lord," "the Last Day," "the Day of Wrath," "the Day in which God will judge the world." In that day, then, what will be our only consolation and security? The text reminds us, "To find mercy of the Lord." Mercy is another word for grace. It is an act of free and unmerited favour. Men sometimes say that such a person deserves to have mercy shown to him! But this is a very incorrect and careless way of speaking. A man can never deserve mercy. There may be some circumstances in his case, which may make him more particularly an object of compassion. When a criminal by his offence has forfeited his life, and is condemned to die; the king, from pity to the offender, or from some other consideration best known to himself, may grant a pardon and remit the sentence. Here is mercy, an act of free, unmerited grace to the undeserving and the guilty. But to say that there could be anything in the criminal which gave him a claim to mercy, would be to talk absurdly. The very idea, then, of mercy naturally shuts out all idea of merit. These two things are totally contrary to each other, and can never exist together. It is to be feared that many, when they talk of hoping to find mercy, mean in fact to say that they hope to find justice in that day; and that their hopes of being favourably received then are built not on God's free mercy, but on their own merits, and on their secret claims to reward.
II. THAT THERE WILL BE SOME WHO IN THAT DAY WILL NOT FIND MERCY OF THE LORD. St. Paul, when he prays that Onesiphorus may find mercy in that day, clearly intimates it to be possible that he may not find it. And if it were not certain that Onesiphorus would find it, it is not certain that others will find it. Indeed, the Scriptures plainly tell us that all will not find it. We are expressly told that in that day some will say, "Lord, Lord, open to us"; to whom He will say, "Verily, I know you not." Let us see what the Scriptures teach us concerning those who will find mercy of the Lord in that day.
1. They are now seeking mercy, and seeking it in that one way, in which alone God has promised to bestow it.
2. They are duly affected and properly influenced by the views and hopes which they have of the rich mercy of God in Christ. There is a sad propensity in man to abuse the Divine mercy, and to take occasion, from this most glorious perfection of the Almighty, to run the farther and continue the longer in sin. How differently did a sense of God's mercy work on the pious David! Hear what he says, "O Lord, there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared." He felt that the goodness of God led him to repentance. The rich mercy of the Lord, far from hardening his heart, softened and overcame it.
Essex Remembrancer.Let us consider the language of the text as showing that the exercise of mercy towards us, especially in the proceedings of the final day, is an object of highest desire and hope.
1. The very nature of the occasion shows it to be so: the day of the end of the world. This will differ from all other days. On numbers of the days that are past, our eyes were never opened; they appeared to our forefathers, but fled away ere we had our being; while the days which we behold, they do not witness, for the darkness of death and the grave overshadows them. Thus different in their importance, ordinary days may be to different persons. The day of one man's prosperity may be the day of another man's adversity. For ancient days we are not responsible, and yet those days were concerned in the accountability of millions who have no concern with our own. But the day referred to in the text will be common to all the sons of Adam. If, then, we consider the period which it occupies, both as to what it follows and what it precedes, how manifest the need of mercy at that day. What recollections of time, what apprehensions of eternity will fill the mind!
2. As it will be the period when God will display the effects of His probationary dispensations, the worth of mercy will then particularly appear. Such effects will be strictly discriminative of character and condition. Events will have reached their issues; moral consequences will be brought together in vast accumulation, and will bear with all their weight upon the mind. Fruits will be reaped in kind and in degree, according to what we have sown. And while these effects will be so concentrated at that day, they will also be looked upon in their character of perpetuity.
3. As it will be the period when the Lord will reward His servants for all they have done in His name, the apostle could entreat mercy for his friend at that day.
4. It is also to be observed that the importance of an interest in Divine mercy at that day appears in the fact that if it be not then enjoyed the hope of it can be cherished no more.
(Essex Remembrancer.)I. WHENCE ARISES OUR NEED OF MERCY?
1. Our need of mercy arises from our guilt, for mercy is kindness or favour shown to those who are undeserving of it. Our guilt arises from our personal disobedience to the Divine law. We inherit a depraved nature, but it is not for this that God holds us responsible. We are responsible not for what we have inherited, but for what we have done, and therefore it is not by our depraved nature but by our actions we shall be judged.
2. Guilt exposes to the retributive justice of God. There is always the feeling that sin deserves punishment at the hands of God. We know indeed from Scripture that it does so. Nothing could be plainer or more solemn than its statements, than the sinner is even now under the curse of the law which he has broken, and that hereafter he will come under a righteous retribution. But it is not to Scripture that I would now appeal. A man who has violated the laws of his country knows that he deserves to suffer their penalties. It is right, he says, I have sinned, and must bear the punishment. So the sinner against God feels that he deserves to be condemned, and that if God's justice were to deal with him he could not escape. From this indissoluble connection between sin and punishment arises our need of mercy. Therefore it is, that the prayer of the publican is the universal prayer of poor, sinful, and perishing humanity. Therefore it is, that in the presence of God's holiness, or confronted with His law, or in the near prospect of an eternal world, we shrink back appalled at the consciousness of our guilt.
II. WHETHER IT IS POSSIBLE TO OBTAIN MERCY? This is a question of grave importance; easily answered with the Bible in our hands, but, apart from it, filling us with strange perplexity.
1. Without a Divine revelation, we do not know that God is merciful at all. Granting that there is much to excite our hopes, there is as much to awaken our fears. We are ready to say, "God is good — His tender mercies are over all." But when the pestilence is abroad in the city, and the tempest in the field — when the rivers overflow their banks, and the mildew blights the precious fruits of the earth — when the crimson tide of war rolls through a land — when men's faces are black with famine — when the sea is strewn with wrecks — then we are filled with alarm, and say, "When I consider, I am afraid of Him." Think again: What are the conceptions which have been formed of God by those who are destitute of revelation? One of the best and wisest of the heathen doubted whether it was possible for "God to forgive sin." The sceptre of the Supreme God was a thunder-bolt — He was cruel, harsh and vindictive Again: When we reflect on the nature of moral government, we perceive serious difficulties in the way of the exercise of mercy. Certainly this is not the end of government. The great object for which it exists is the administration of justice; that it may "render to every man according to his works." If mercy, not justice, be its ruling principle, it is not easy to understand why it should exist at all. The highest praise that can be given to an earthly ruler is, that he is "the terror of evil-doers and the praise of them that do well." Now apply this to the Divine government. Why does it exist? — whence its language and its laws? Is it not for the maintenance of order? — for the well-being of the creatures whom God has made? And, as far as we have an opportunity of observing, are not the laws of this government strictly carried out — in every case, sooner or later, exacting penalties from the disobedient? If you violate a physical law, there is no mercy for you.
2. But when we turn to the Scriptures, the subject is presented before us in a different light.(1) We learn, in the first place, that God is merciful in Himself.(2) We learn that this mercy is displayed to sinners through the atonement of Christ.
III. WHY IS IT THAT AT THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WE SHALL ESPECIALLY REQUIRE THE EXERCISE OF MERCY? It is the day that will terminate this world's history. Whenever it dawns, time will cease, the world will be burnt up, the heavens will pass away, there will be "no more sea." Wonderful was the day of creation, when God called things that were not as though they were, and His Spirit moved over the chaos, and light dawned, and the earth appeared. But more wonderful still will be that day when the purpose for which the world has been created shall have been accomplished, and, like a faded vesture, it shall be folded up. Then the world's history will end — its sad tragedies of sorrow, its scenes of suffering; and its works of nature, its wonders of art, the monuments of God's power, the trophies of man's skill, shall pass away.
1. Its absolute certainty.
2. Its scrutiny will be so strict. God will set our iniquities before Him — our secret sins in the light of His countenance. And that which we had forgotten shall be remembered; that which appeared to us but trivial shall assume a magnitude which will fill us with profound alarm; that which we supposed none had witnessed shall be proclaimed.
3. The award will be just and final.
4. It will come unexpectedly. All the representations given of the judgment-day describe it as a sudden and unlooked-for event. But what shall we say of the worldly, the ungodly, the profane? What sudden, destruction will overtake them! Where Pompeii was disinterred, there was discovered in the buried city the remains of those who still preserved the very attitude in which death had overtaken them. There was a skeleton before a mirror, another behind a counter; in the theatre, in the forum, in the temples, at a banquet, in every attitude and position they were found. It was the work of a moment, the burning lava fell, and they died. You are looking forward to many years of life, but the Judge may even now be standing at the door. Who then will find mercy? Those who have sought it and found it now — those who have confessed and forsaken sin — those who humbly rest on the merits of the Saviour's sacrifice.
(H. J. Gamble.)I. MEN ARE ALL ADVANCING TOWARDS A SOLEMN AND MOMENTOUS PERIOD.
II. AT THAT PERIOD MEN WILL STAND IN NEED OF MERCY. When the apostle expresses a wish that his friend may receive mercy, it must be evident to every one that of course he needs it — that without its communication it is impossible that he can be happy. Another inference to be dragon from this principle is, that, in consequence of this transgression by which we are characterised, we are, of course, in danger of punishment by that great Almighty Being whom, in this manner, we have offended. But now, you must at once perceive the whole force of the statement from which these particulars have been deduced. For the purpose of escaping the condemnation of the last great day, there must be a communication of the mercy of the Lord.
III. THE MERCY OF GOD IS DILIGENTLY TO BE SOUGHT IN THE PRESENT WORLD.
1. A portion in the provision of Divine grace ought to be sought by you as a matter of intense and impassioned desire.
2. A portion in the full provision of Divine grace should be sought in the spirit of fervent and importunate prayer. We must remark —
IV. TO RECEIVE MERCY IS TO POSSESS THE ENJOYMENT OF A VAST AND INCALCULABLE BLESSING. I scarcely dare venture for a single moment to occupy your time by attempting to describe the blessed consequences of having the Judge for your friend on that day of eternal retribution, feeling, as I do, that the grandeur of the property may appear diminished by the feebleness of the description.
V. THOSE WHO HAVE THE HOPE OF MERCY SHOULD DESIRE ITS PARTICIPATION BY OTHERS. It has already been observed, that the prayer of the apostle is that peculiar form of prayer which is known by the name of intercession. Here is a beautiful example of that spirit which we, as the possessors and heirs of mercy, should cultivate towards those in whom we feel an interest.
(James Parsons.)I. "THAT DAY." Its date is not given. It would but gratify curiosity. Its length is not specified. It will be long enough for the deliberate judgment of all men. Its coming will be solemnly proclaimed. Ushered in with pomp of angels, sound of trumpet, etc., none will be ignorant of it. Its glory, the revelation of Jesus from heaven upon the throne of judgment. this will make it most memorable. Its event, the assembly of quick and dead, and the last assize. Its character, excitement of joy or terror. Its personal interest to each one of us will be paramount.
II. THE MERCY. To arouse us, let us think of those who will find no mercy of the Lord in that day: — Those who had no mercy on others. Those who lived and died impenitent. Those who neglected salvation. How shall they escape? Those who said they needed no mercy: the self-righteous. Those who sought no mercy: procrastinators, and the indifferent. Those who scoffed at Christ, and refused the gospel. Those who sold their Lord, and apostatised from Him. Those who made a false and hypocritical profession.
III. TO-DAY. Remember that now is the accepted time; for you are not yet standing at the judgment bar. You are yet where prayer is heard. You are where faith will save all who exercise it towards Christ. You are where the Spirit strives. You are where sin may be forgiven, at once, and for ever. You are where grace reigns, even though sin abounds. Today is the day of grace; to-morrow may be a day of another sort, for you at least, and possibly for all mankind. The Judge is at the door. Seek mercy immediately, that mercy may be yours for ever.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)demand it from the justice, but that he must entreat it from the mercy of God. Repentance, sorrow, humiliation, contrition at the thought of his past conduct, are, upon this account, the sentiments which become him, and seem to be the only means which he has left of appeasing that wrath which he has justly provoked. He even distrusts the efficacy of all these, and naturally fears, lest the wisdom of God should not, like the weakness of man, be prevailed upon to spare the crime by the most importunate lamentations of the criminal. Some other intercession, some other sacrifice, some other atonement, he imagines, must be made for him, beyond what he himself is capable of making, before the purity of the Divine justice can be reconciled to his manifold offences." It may perhaps be said, if the apostle's views were such as have now been described, if he believed that justice must pronounce a sentence of condemnation on all without exception, on what could he found a hope that either himself, or his benefactor, or any other man, will find mercy of the Lord at that day? These questions are perfectly reasonable and proper, and it would be impossible to answer them in such a manner as to justify the apostle, were not a satisfactory answer furnished by the gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel reveals to us a glorious plan, devised by infinite wisdom, in which the apparently conflicting claims of justice and mercy are perfectly reconciled.
(E. Payson, D. D.)
(J. Barlow, D. D.)I. AN IMPORTANT SEASON. "That day." The day is that which is elsewhere called "the last day," because then the end of this world's history, as a place of trial at least, will be come; it is called also "the great day," because then scenes unparalleled before in grandeur will be unfolded, and affairs that have never been surpassed in magnitude will be transacted — such scenes and affairs as will throw into the shade the most splendid spectacles and momentous transactions of time.
II. AN IMPORTANT BLESSING. For a man to find mercy even now, amid the trials and changes and imperfections of this present life, is to be truly blessed. It is to have guaranteed to him all that is included in eternal life — that gift of God — that munificent donation of infinite mercy. Nor will the largess be diminished, or the security invalidated, on the day of judgment.
1. There are many considerations besides which go to illustrate the high importance and exceeding desirableness of mercy on that day; and one of these is, that it will then be felt to be peculiarly needful.
2. Another consideration, tending to enhance the value of the blessing, is that it will not be shared in by all. This is obviously implied in the apostle's intercessory petition. If the mariner who is saved from the wreck, when all his shipmates are lost, estimates his preservation more highly than he who has returned to the desired haven with them all in safety, must it not seem a glorious benefit to appear as "vessels of mercy prepared unto glory," when many fellow-sinners are found to be "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction"?
3. Another consideration still, which may well exalt the blessing in our eyes, is that if mercy be not found then, it will never be found.
4. And yet another circumstance which magnifies the value of the blessing is, that the condition of those by whom mercy shall not then be found will be pre-eminently wretched. Not to find mercy on that day is to be undone, altogether and eternally undone.Lessons:
1. If mercy is to be found at last, it must be sought now.
2. Again, if mercy is to be found at all, it must be sought through the mediation of Christ.
3. And, in fine, if mercy is to be found of the Lord, it must be sought in His service.
(Edward Irving.)nowhere else prays for the dead is fatal to the notion here.
(J. Bryce, LL. D.)In case even that Onesiphorus were really dead at the time of the writing of this Epistle, still the Roman Catholic interpreters are in error when they find in ver. 18 a proof of the lawfulness and obligation for intercessory prayers for the dead. The case here was altogether special, and cannot, without great wilfulness, be applied as the foundation of a general rule for all the dead. On the other side, it is often forgotten that the gospel nowhere lays down a positive prohibition to follow with our wishes and prayers, if our heart impel us thereto, our departed while in the condition of separation; and hence, in any case, it is well to distinguish between the Christian idea which lies at the foundation of such inward needs, and the form of later Church rite and practice.
(Dr. Van Oosterzee.)Shalom (peace) of Jewish, and the Requiescat or Refrigerium of early Christian epitaphs, and the like prayers in early liturgies, though they sanction the natural outpouring of affectionate yearnings, are as far as possible from the full-blown Romish theory of purgatory.
(E. H. Plumptre, D. D.).
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