For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy; and mercy rejoices against judgment.
The history of this world lies in these few words; and you might go about with this key to unlock almost all the mysteries of God's providence. Let us define the words. "Mercy" is love to the weak, the unhappy, and the bad. "Judgment" is punishment, or a severe sentence, or a condemnation. And the thought of the text is this — that in the Divine government "mercy" contends with "judgment" to overcome it, and then rejoices in her victory; and that, if it be so in God's method, so it should be with us. There are four ways in which this may be done: "Mercy" may stop "judgment" — that it shall never fall; or "mercy" may mingle itself with the "judgment" — to qualify it; or "mercy" may balance and outweigh the "judgment"; or, best of all, "mercy" may turn the "judgment" into blessing. We will glance at all four, only remembering this — the mind of God is perfect unity. There is no clashing or division. We speak of His different attributes; but His Being is one and His work one — from everlasting to everlasting. He is carrying out one object, by one plan, on one principle, to one end. We divide the "mercy" from the "judgment"; but there is no difference. For God is all love. There is, then, the "mercy" which withholds the" judgment" altogether. There must be "mercy" in heaven itself, for since God "charges His angels with folly," it is a "mercy" that He has not cast them down; and as "the heavens are not clean in His sight," it is a "mercy" that they stand and that we can call them firmament. Look at this world. The sun rises and sets; the tide flows; the seasons return; all goes on its ancient round; and all is beautiful. Thousands and thousands go about and flourish. They laugh, and are happy. Yet on what a world does that sun each day rise and set! What a pestilence of sin broods upon this whole earth! What sounds, what sights go up to "the Lord God of Sabaoth"! And we — we know not at this moment what impending" judgments" are hanging over the head of anyone of us stayed only by the hand of "mercy." Why are we all here so quiet? Why are we not in hell?" Mercy" — arresting "mercy" — "mercy" has "rejoiced against judgment." Or "mercy" may "rejoice against judgment "by tempering. And which of us could not go back to many a time when that promise came to pass to us: "In men, sure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: He stayeth His rough wind in the day of the east wind." The mitigations of God's "judgments" are wonderful. One look, one sigh, one thought, can change all, and in a moment take away all the wrath and almost all the pain. Who could not say that never was his heavenly Father so fatherly to him as when he was chastened? And so it has been, and so it will be to the end. The "sifting" is to come; but God will make it plain. Death may come, but no terror. There will be a "valley," but no darkness. There will be solitude, but no fear. This world will pale away, but a brighter one will be opening. "If this be dying," said Bishop Beveridge, "would that I could die for ever!" So "mercy" rejoices against "judgment." Or the compensations of our "judgment" may be the method in which "mercy" triumphs. Never does God take anything away but He has something better to put in its place. The pains of the body are the medicines of the soul. Sad changes come into our families, and make deep chasms; but Christ comes and sits in the empty seat. We can count our troubles by units, our mercies by millions. But now I have yet to trace God's own, truer, far higher, better way, by which He is wont to turn the "judgment" into "mercy," till the sorrow becomes itself the joy. See it thus. He made a free, responsible creature, and the free and responsible creature, in his freeness and responsibility, chose sin, and for sin he was expelled from paradise, and doomed to die. That was the "judgment." Then "mercy" stood up, and defied the "judgment"; and mercy did her own work. And what is the result? We have lost a paradise, and find a heaven 1 We have lost a garden, but got glory! We have lost God's visits at certain intervals, to have His presence for ever and ever. What have we not in the Second Adam — infinitely more precious than all which we could have inherited in the First Adam? Examine any of the great "judgments" which have ever come upon this earth, and look how they issued. That great beacon, the Flood — did not mankind need that exhibition of God's power and holiness? Was not it the grand type of a flood of grace to cleanse and a flood of fire to restore and renew this earth again? And did not "mercy" more than hold its own over the Flood when Christ "went and preached to those very spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah"? And Babel's scattering — was not it to carry the knowledge of the true God, which else had remained confined to one spot, over the whole earth? and, like "the blood of martyrs" in every age, did not it become the "seed of the Church"? Or Israel's seventy years' captivity — do you not know that they went down to Babylon to unlearn, for the first time, their idolatry, that they have never been idolaters since? And their present dispersion and degradation — what a witness to truth it is to all the ages let every man see — what a testimony to prophecy, and what a preface to that grand coming chapter when their restoration shall be "as life from the dead" to the whole world! There is not a child of God who could not stand up and say that his "judgments" have been the elements which went to make his best happiness and his truest hopes. His tears have become his rainbow. And when the question goes round in heaven, "How came you here?" the greater part by far will make answer, "My sorrows! my sorrows!" So "mercy" entered the lists with "judgment," and "mercy" won the day; and far above the clouds of wrath her banner floats, and she sits on high and chants her song of victory: "Mercy reigneth and rejoiceth against judgment"! Now, what measure has been meted to you measure again. Let "mercy" have her right place in your heart. Before you begin to speak of anybody's faults, or even look at them, look at three things. Look at their good points. It is such a poor talent to see faults; it is so high and Christlike to see excellences. Use your eyelids to men's failings, and open your eyes to their virtues. Secondly, see and make all allowance for circumstances. How different their circumstances from yours! How much more tempted than you! And how much less likely to resist! and how much of their sins, after all, may be accidental and circumstantial! how much purely physical I how much irresponsible! And then how little do you know what is going on in secret, in those very hearts that you are condemning! — what struggles! what hidden misery! what prayer! what repentance! what holy earnestness! what wrestlings with God! And above all, look at yourself. What have you done? How have you provoked God? How much heavier, if weighed in God's balance, your sin would be than anybody else's! Never look at sin but with pity. Take care that you never "smite those whom God hath not wounded." Never condemn I never speak harshly. Place yourself on the lower ground. Tell of pardon, tell of Jesus! tell of heaven, tell of mercy.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.