Psalm 85:10
It is difficult, indeed impossible, to say what was the actual thought of the writer when he penned the words of our text; for they are true in several ways. He represents mercy and truth as going in different directions, and with opposite intent, but they meet, and are brought into harmony as though at variance before. And it is the same with righteousness and peace; there seemed no common course of action open to them; they must be opposed; but, lo! they embrace, and all discord ceases between them. Now, where is such union of opposites to be seen? And we answer -

I. IN GOD. In the wisdom of God when devising our salvation. Christ is the Wisdom of God, because in him, whilst mercy has full scope, nevertheless, the Law is magnified and made honourable. There was no compromise, no tampering with the holy Law of God, although God did so love the world as to save it (John 3:16). Love reigns, yet the Law is fulfilled as it never was or could be before, and is magnified in infinitely higher way than if in vindication of God's broken Law the whole human race bad been forever condemned (cf. Romans 8:4). All this was shadowed forth by the tables of the Law being placed within the ark of the covenant, on which rested the mercy seat, and whereon was sprinkled the atoning blood (1 John 2:2). Thus in God those attributes which seemed to be and were hostile to us, and those which alone seemed our friends, met together, were reconciled, and, as it were, kissed each other.

II. IN MAN. Probably this was the thought of the psalmist. He is exulting in the anticipation of the regenerated moral life of God's people when his salvation should come to them; cruelty and inhumanity should give way to mercy, and truth between man and man should replace their too common falsehood and lies; righteousness, justice, fair dealing, should prevail instead of fraud and wickedness, and peace should banish war. "Earth should be carpeted with truth as with fair flowers, and be canopied over by righteousness as with the beautiful sky, or as by night with the glorious stars." Men should "serve God in holiness and righteousness without fear, all the days of their life."

III. IN CHRIST. The text may be taken, has been so, as descriptive of the holy and beautiful life of our Lord - of him "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." In him, as in no other, those contrasted qualities of our humanity, which in us are generally so ill balanced, found perfect equipoise and harmony. The Divine symmetry and fair proportions of the holy life, "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height" (Ephesians 3:18), were seen in all their beauty. He was "the perfect Man, Christ Jesus," the lovely Image on which the saints gazed with perpetual, adoring rapture, and grew towards whilst they gazed, and so became the saints, the holy ones, they were. Yes, in him our text was indeed fulfilled. And -

IV. IN GRACE. (See 1 Corinthians 1:30.) What is the true Christian but one who has known in his own experience the power of the perfect Christ? Some believe in a Christ whom they have fashioned to themselves, as all fondness and compassion and pity, who will not be stern with any one. Others conceive of him only as an awful Judge, launching out the thunderbolts of his wrath against wretched, sinful men. But the grace which saves is that told of Titus (Titus 2:11-14). Grace includes mercy and truth, righteousness and peace. - S.C.

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
This is a lovely and highly imaginative picture of the reconciliation and reunion of God and man. The poet psalmist, who seems to have belonged to the times immediately after the return from the exile, in strong faith sees before him a vision of a perfectly harmonious co-operation and relation between God and man. He is not prophesying directly of Messianic times.

1. The heavenly twin sisters, and the earthly pair that corresponds. "Mercy and truth are met together" — that is one personification; "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other" is another. It is difficult to say whether these four great qualities are to be regarded as all belonging to God, or as all belonging to man, or as all common both to God and man. I am disposed to think of the first pair as sisters from the heavens, and the second pair as the earthly sisters that correspond with them. "Mercy and truth are met together" means this: That these two qualities are found braided and linked inseparably in all that God does with mankind. Mercy is love that stoops, love that departs from the strict lines of desert and retribution. And truth blends with mercy. That is to say, truth in a somewhat narrower than its widest sense, meaning mainly God's fidelity to every obligation under which He has come. God's faithfulness to promise, God's fidelity to His past, God's fidelity in His actions, to His own character, which is meant by that great Word, "He sware by Himself." Love is thus lifted up above the suspicion of being arbitrary, or of ever changing or fluctuating. In the second two, "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other," we have the picture of what happens upon earth when mercy and truth that come down from heaven are accepted and recognized. To put away metaphor, here are two thoughts.(1) That in men's experience and life righteousness and peace cannot be rent apart. The only secret of tranquillity is to be good.(2) Righteousness and her sister, Peace, only come in the measure in which the mercy and the truth of God are received into thankful hearts.

2. God responding to man's truth. "Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven." Where a man's heart has welcomed the mercy and the truth of God, there shall spring up in that heart, not only the righteousness and peace, of which the previous verse is speaking, but specifically a faithfulness not all unlike the faithfulness which it grasps. Righteousness looks down, not in its judicial aspect merely, but as the perfect moral purity that belongs to the Divine nature. No good, no beauty of character, no meek rapture of faith, no aspiration Godwards, is ever wasted and lost, for His eye rests upon it.

3. Man responding to God's gift. "Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good, and our land shall yield her increase." Earthly fruitfulness is only possible by the reception of heavenly gifts. The earth yields her increase by laying hold of the good which the Lord gives, and by reason of that received good quickening all the germs.

4. God teaching man to walk in His footsteps. "Righteousness shall go before Him and set us in the way of His steps." The psalmist here draws tighter than ever the bond between God and man. Man may walk in God's ways — not only in the ways that please Him, but in the ways that are like Him, and the likeness can only be a likeness in moral quality.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. Here is a coalition of the MOST BLESSED QUALITIES. "Mercy," a modification of love, love commiserating: "truth," which means reality, eternally antagonistic to all shams and hypocrisies; "righteousness," the immutable law of the moral universe, to which all must bow sooner or later; "peace," not insensibility, inaction, or stagnation, but the moral repose of souls centred in God. These are the moral qualities here specified; and more precious are they a thousand times than all the gems of ocean, or orbs of immensity.

II. Here is a coalition of blessed qualities that HAVE BEEN SEPARATED. In all human history, ever since the introduction of sin, these blessed qualities have been working separately and even antagonistically. There has been "mercy" without "truth," and "peace" of a certain kind, without "righteousness." They have not worked together either in communities or in individuals, hence the constant agitations and struggles in all human life.

III. Here is a coalition of qualities BLESSED IN THEIR REUNION. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." These celestial sisters come together and embrace one another with delight. Blessed is this union! Let them be united in our hearts and conduct!


In the restoration of the Church by Jesus Christ, the glorious attributes of the great Jehovah conspire together for the redemption and salvation of sinners. And although the perfections of God, mentioned in the text, may be represented as opposed to each other, yet in the covenant of grace they all agree. Observe the uncommonness of such a meeting: two opposites in two pairs, meeting together. The unanimity of such a meeting; that contraries should shake hands and kiss each other.


1. Mercy pleads for the guilty Church (Psalm 86:15).

2. Truth stands up for God's faithfulness against sin (Genesis 2:17).

3. Righteousness or justice comes and claims execution (1 John 3:4; Romans 12:9).

4. Peace pleads for a mediator (Job 33:24; Isaiah 9:6; Galatians 4:4).


1. The place of assembly was in Christ (Colossians 1:19; 2 Corinthians 5:19).

(1)Mercy is vouchsafed to the soul deserving of eternal death, through the mediation of Christ.

(2)Truth or faithfulness stands engaged for the soul through Him, being upheld by Him, through the atonement.

(3)Righteousness or justice is satisfied in him, and pleads for an everlasting release.

(4)Peace flows into the soul of the believer, as proof of the unanimity of the meeting.

2. Some of the various meetings called by these parties.

(1)At the eternal council-table of covenant love (Ephesians 1:5).

(2)In the garden of Eden after the fall (Genesis 3:15).

(3)At Bethlehem at. our Saviour's advent (Luke 2:11):

(4)On Mount Calvary (Hebrews 12:2),


1. A wonderful meeting (1 Timothy 3:16).

2. A joyous meeting (Isaiah 53:10).

3. A holy meeting (Jeremiah 2:2, 8).

4. A happy meeting (Ephesians 1:8).

5. A free meeting (2 Timothy 1:9).

6. An unexpected meeting to us (Romans 11:33).

7. An inseparable meeting (Hebrews 13:8).


1. To promote Jehovah's glory (Ephesians 1:6).

2. To disunite some unhappy meetings (Isaiah 28:18).

3. To unite opposite characters (1 Corinthians 17; John 17:21).

4. To unite opposite nations in one body (Ephesians 2:16).

5. To unite opposite covenants of works and grace (Romans 10:4).

6. To bring the Church to glory (Hebrews 2:10).

(T. B. Baker)

We commonly think of God's righteousness as contrary to His mercy; we supplicate His regard for us, personally, to qualify His regard for right. How hard it is to recognize that law is the minister of love, and love the fulfilling of law! Let us now consider some of the ways in which He reveals this to us.

I. PARENTAL RULE is one of these ways. The government of every pious household is, in measure, a revelation of the government of God. "Men are but children of a larger growth." We call ourselves the children of God, and this is much more than a merely endearing name. We have all a child's hold on God's affections, all a child's need of discipline and correction, all s child's power to grieve Him; and He has all a Father's kind determination to train us in right.

II. The tenderness of God's strict rule is revealed to us again in THE EXPERIENCE OF LIFE. It is hard to say whether most injury is done by over-strictness or by over-indulgence. Regard for right is the truest personal regard. God would shield men from woes unnumbered, from confusion of an unregulated will, from the conflict of passion, from the loathing that follows self-indulgence; and, therefore, has He made His laws so severe and certain, and, therefore, does He subdue us to His laws. Truth is not opposed to mercy; where there is no righteousness love works destruction. The experience of life prepares us to turn in gladness to our God, in gladness to rest in the rule of Him in whom we see that "mercy and truth are met together," etc.

III. This revelation, again, is granted in PRAYER. We mourn under some appointment of life, thinking God is punishing us in it for our sins; as we pray to Him, we learn that we are not being punished, but chastened. We ask that God's anger may be taken away and we forgiven; we see that we are already forgiven, and that what we thought was anger was only the fidelity of love.

IV. The tenderness of God's strict law is revealed to us in the Gospel of Christ. It is personal regard for man which we see pre-eminently in Jesus; yet who so much as He makes us feel the constraining bond of righteousness? He is filled with human sympathy; in the fulness of His pity He makes their sorrows, and their shame, and their struggles His own; but the influence of His associations is to make men feel more and more that they cannot escape the rule of God. He delivers them from the penalties of law; but it is to awaken in them a reverence for it, deeper and more solemn than any experience of penalty can be. He frees them from its pains by transforming its painfulness into an entire devotion to it. He shows them that personal regard is not at variance with regard for right; for the Father, who loved the Son, did not out of regard for Him turn aside from strictest law.

V. The closing verses declare THE BLESSED EFFECTS OF THIS DISCOVERY in a true and fruitful, in a trusting, an intelligent and obedient life; in a life hallowed by God's smile and crowned with His constant benediction.

(A. Mackennal, D. D.)

The words "truth," "righteousness," and "judgment" in these passages we shall take to represent the stern, the inflexible, and severe in God's dealing with men; and the words "mercy" and "peace" to represent the mild and the clement.

I. In God's procedure with man these principles are found in HARMONIOUS CO-OPERATION.

1. We see these two principles harmoniously operating in God's dealing with us through the phenomena of nature. In the earthquake and the tornado, in the fierce lightnings and the rolling thunders, in the raging oceans and the furious winds, we feel ourselves confronted with the stern, the rigorous, and the terrible; but in the serene and the sunny we feel ourselves in the presence of the mild and the lenient. Both in nature work together, they "kiss each other," and bring about the good ordained.

2. We see these two principles harmoniously operating in God's dealing with us through the events of human history. When we read the history of our race — its wars, famines, pestilences, and innumerable calamities — we are brought before the severe and awful in God; whilst in the happiness of tribes, the prosperity of nations, and the gradual advancement of the race, we see the merciful and the kind; but both principles co-operate, the rigorous and the clement. They "meet and kiss each other." They are in a blessed partnership in their endeavours to make humanity what God would have it be.

3. We see these two principles harmoniously operating in God's dealing with us through the circumstances of individual life. In the various afflictions, physical, intellectual, and social, which every man has, God in the sterner aspects of His character appears before us; whilst in the pleasures and enjoyments of our life He faces us in an aspect tender and kind. But both principles co-operate. "Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment," etc.

4. We see these two principles harmoniously operating in God's dealing with us through the means of redemptive Providence. In the life of Christ, God seems in one aspect terribly righteous, on the other side infinitely merciful, but the two are one; they meet, kiss, and co-operate in making a perfect Saviour. It is so in the redemptive training of men for everlasting blessedness. First, law comes to the man with its flashing light and terrible thunder, rousing conscience, and kindling the terrible fames of remorse, and the Divine One seems rigorous and awful. Then comes the assurance of forgiveness, the centralizing the affections in infinite love, and ell in God seems tender and merciful. But the two principles meet together and co-operate in bringing about the same blessed result, viz., the training of the soul for a higher life.

II. Though these principles harmoniously co-operate in God's procedure with man, ONE IS EVER IN THE ASCENDANT. "Mercy rejoiceth against judgment."

1. In the phenomena of nature you see more of the clement than the stern. The mild, and not the rigorous, is the queen of nature; storms and earthquakes, thunderings and lightnings are but the exceptions; sunny days, serene earth, and calm atmospheres are the rule.

2. In the events of human history you see more of the clement than the stern. History, it is true, records bloody wars, blasting pestilences, and writhing famines, but these after all are only exceptions in God's dispensations with mankind; peace, health, and plenty, have been the rule.

3. In the circumstances of individual life you see more of the element than the stern. It is true we have our afflictions and our sorrows, but these are exceptions. As a rule, the existence of most men is that of health and judgment; goodness and mercy follow us. "Mercy rejoiceth against judgment," in our experience.

4. In the means of redemptive Providence you see more of the clement than the stern. In the Christian life there have been the pains connected with conviction, repentance, and conversion; but these are in the initial stages of the Christian life; succeeding stages are generally calm, and often jubilant, and the end everlasting life.


There is always truth enough in the world, but it is merciless truth. Men are quick enough to see the faults and sins of their neighbours. If truth is merely fault-finding, then there is plenty of it everywhere. No man ever commits a sin but some one sees it and points it out. But cold, hard truth never convinces; it only provokes; It hardens instead of converting. It seems like injustice, cruelty, wrong. Truth without love has, therefore, virtually the effect of falsehood. It is often said that men are seldom converted by argument or controversy. This is because controversy is so apt to be carried on in a spirit of coldness and hatred, rather than love. There is also enough love in the world, if love means only kind feelings, weak good-will, which is too full of sympathy to see the faults of others and point them out, which will concede or suppress truth for the sake of peace. No. Love which has no truth in it is not love, but real enmity. To treat a bad man as if he were not bad, is a cruel kindness. It puts darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. It confounds moral distinctions. It encourages the man who might be cured by vigorous remedies to go on from bad to worse till he is incurable. It is not easy to unite these great forces, for they are polar forces and antagonist. A truthful man tends always to be too hard; a loving man tends to be too soft and yielding. This conflict between truth and love is sometimes presented to us as a problem in ethics. If a robber asks me which way his victim has gone, shall I tell a lie and deceive him or not? Shall I tell a lie to an insane person or a sick person for his good? Is it right ever to deceive? These questions, when put in abstract form, cannot always be answered. But the practical answer comes to us if we have learned to live in truth and love. When these are united in our character, they will not be divided in our speech or our action. We shall not tell any lies from good nature, but we shall be taught in the hour of exigency what to do and say. The promise of Jesus will be fulfilled: "Take no thought what ye shall say, for it will be given you in that hour what ye ought to say." If we live in the whole a united life, we shall not act partially or in a one-sided way. The Lord will help us in each exigency to say and do the right thing, not sacrificing truth to love or love to truth. Life often teaches us that way which logic fails to find. The only live work, too, is that which has both truth and love in it. We must love our work, to do it well; We must also believe in it, to do it well. The lowest drudgery becomes a fine art when we put our mind and heart into it: a fine art becomes mere drudgery when we practise it only to make money or get reputation out of it. Work is very hard when we do it only because we must; it is very easy when we have faith in it and love it.

(J. F. Clarke.)

Peace may be sought two ways. One way is as Gideon sought it when he built his altar in Ophrah, naming it, "God send peace," yet sought this peace that he loved as he was ordered to seek it, and the peace was sent in God's way. "The country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon." And the other way of making peace is as Menahem sought it when he gave the King of Assyria a thousand talents of silver, that "his hand might be with him." That is, you may either win your peace or buy it — win it by resistance to evil; buy it by compromise with evil No peace is ever in store for any of us, but that which we shall win by victory over shame or sin-victory over the sin that oppresses, as well as over that which corrupts.

(John Ruskin.)

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