What are the properties of God’s mercy?
(1) It is free and spontaneous. To set up merit is to destroy mercy. Nothing can deserve mercy or force it; we cannot deserve it nor force it, because of our enmity. We may force God to punish us, but not to love us. ‘I will love them freely.’ Hos 14: 4. Every link in the golden 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.’ Eph 1: 4. Justification is free. ‘Being justified freely by his grace.’ Rom 3: 24. Say not I am unworthy; for mercy is free. If God should show mercy only to such as deserve it, he must show mercy to none.
(2) The mercy which God shows is powerful. How powerful is that mercy which softens a heart of stone! Mercy changed Mary Magdalen’s heart, out of whom seven devils were cast: she who was an inflexible adamant was made a weeping penitent. God’s mercy works sweetly, yet irresistibly; it allures, yet conquers. The law may terrify, but mercy mollifies. Of what sovereign power and efficacy is that mercy which subdues the pride and enmity of the heart, and beats off those chains of sin in which the soul is held.
(3) The mercy which God shows is superabundant. ‘Abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands.’ Exod 34: 6. God visits iniquity ‘to the third and fourth generation’ only, but he shows mercy to a thousand generations. Exod 20: 5, 6. The Lord has treasures of mercy in store, and therefore is said to be ‘plenteous in mercy’ (Psa 86: 5), and ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph 2: 4). The vial of God’s wrath drops only, but the fountain of his mercy runs. The sun is not so full of light as God is of love.