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Chastisement and Mercy
When Christians have gone wrong in any way, whether in belief or in practice, scandalously or secretly, it seems that pardon is not explicitly and definitely promised them in Scripture as a matter of course; and the mere fact that they afterwards become better men, and are restored to God's favour, does not decide the question whether they are in every sense pardoned; for David was restored and yet was afterwards punished. It is still a question whether a debt is not standing against them for their past sins, and is not now operating or to operate to their disadvantage. What its payment consists in, and how it will be exacted, is quite another question, and a hidden one. It may be such, if they die under it, as to diminish their blessedness in heaven; or it may be a sort of obstacle here to their rising to certain high points of Christian character; or it may be a hindrance to their ever attaining one or other particular Christian grace in perfection faith, purity, or humility; or it may prevent religion taking deep root within them, and imbuing their minds; or it may make them more liable to fall away; or it may hold them back from that point of attainment which is the fulfilment of their trial; or it may forfeit for them the full assurance of hope; or it may lessen their peace and comfort in the intermediate state, or even delay their knowledge there of their own salvation; or it may involve the necessity of certain temporal punishments, grievous bodily disease, or sharp pain, or worldly affliction, or an unhappy death. Such things are 'secrets of the Lord our God,' not to be pried into, but to be acted upon. We are all more or less sinners against His grace, many of us grievous sinners; and St. Paul and the other Apostles give us very scanty information what the consequences of such sin are. God may spare us, He may punish. In either case, however, our duty is to surrender ourselves into His hands, that He may do what He will.
J. H. Newman.
References. VII. 8, 9. J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iv. p. 94. VII. 15. R. F. Horton, The Hidden God, p. 215.
Anger Changed to Compassion
I. We might have Expected that God would have Retained His Anger for Ever, for consider:
a. The nature and malignity of sin. Sin includes unbelief, rebellion, ingratitude. Does not unbelief give the lie to God? Is not ingratitude a libel on His goodness?
b. The character of God, absolute perfection; sin has made a demand on His justice; sin must be punished, or moral equity is at an end.
c. The demands of God's righteous law.
d. The disinclination of man to listen to any terms of reconciliation. Man stands in the way of his own pardon and recovery.
e. The incompetence of man to make any sufficient reparation to God.
f. The awful example of righteous displeasure in the penal condition of the fallen angels. Thus it appears that we might have expected that He would have retained His anger for ever.
II. How is it that the Divine Anger is Reversed? 'He retaineth not His anger for ever.'
a. Because of the infinite compassion and clemency of the Divine Redeemer. There is mercy with God.
b. Because of the arrangements of the covenant of grace and the council of peace (Isaiah 54:10 ; Ezekiel 37:26 ; 2 Timothy 1:10 ).
c. Because of the effects of the undertaking of the Redeemer in assuming our nature and satisfying the demands of justice.
d. Because of the almighty influences of the Holy Spirit by which the dispositions hostile to our recovery are subdued.
Here we see the display of the merciful character of God. How should our love be called out to that Saviour Who hath so loved us?
The Grace of God to Sinners
I. The Sinner's Astonishment. What is the first thing that brings out this astonishment in the Prophet's heart, and makes it heard in this eloquent way from his lips? His wonder is he has to do with a God who forgives iniquity like his. It is that that gives an everlasting freshness to the pulpit. It is when a man has an everlasting sense of God's unspeakable grace to his own soul that his message comes straight from his heart and comes hot to the heart of bis people. Let our pulpits be filled with men overwhelmed with a sense of God's grace to their own souls, and you will not need to advertise singular subjects; you will fill your churches to the doors when the minister's own heart is filled as Micah's was with downright amazement at God's long-suffering and patience with the preaching Prophet himself. He begins with the very ABC of the Gospel, the offer of pardon for sin. The first thing that amazes him even to seventy and eighty years of age is that God is still forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; and it is that that holds together his congregation in Jerusalem, that makes his own heart burn with freshness and power because of the memory and present experience of God's unspeakable salvation and adorable patience to himself a sinner.
And what makes good preaching makes good hearing. But you must go back into the past and bring a broken heart out of it again to receive afresh the ever new and ever blessed Gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
II. Remnants. He passeth by for His own reasons the transgressions of the remnant of His heritage; He retaineth not His anger for ever for He delighteth in mercy. He retaineth it not It does not say He delights in anger; He delights in mercy; therefore if we need a great mercy let us comfort our hearts with this, that He delights in the thing we need. Mercy and misery are made for one another. There would be ho mercy in God if there was no misery in man. God is love, and His love becomes mercy in presence of my misery. He delighteth in mercy, and will cast all your sins in the depths of the sea that mystical, spiritual, wonderful sea, the sea of the grace of God.
Alexander Whyte, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 337.
References. VII. 18-20. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 169. VII. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1577.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Micah 7". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent