by Thomas Watson
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (v.7)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
A Discourse of Mercifulness
2. The several kinds of mercy, or how many ways a man may be said to be merciful. Mercy is a fountain which runs in five streams. We must be merciful to the souls, names, estates, offences, needs of others.
We must be merciful to the SOULS of others. This is a spiritual alms. Indeed soul-mercy is the chief of mercies. The soul is the most precious thing; it is a vessel of honor; it is a bud of eternity; it is a sparkle lighted by the breath of God; it is a rich diamond set in a ring of clay. The soul has the blood of God to redeem it, the image of God to beautify it. It being therefore of so high a descent, sprung from the Ancient of days, that mercy which is shown to the soul must needs be the greatest. This soul-mercy to others, consists in four things.
1. In pitying them. ‘If I weep,’ says Augustine, ‘for that body from which the soul is departed—how should I weep for that soul from which God is departed!’ Had we seen that man in the gospel cutting himself with stones—it would have moved our pity (Mark 5:5). To see a sinner stabbing himself and having his hands imbrued in his own blood, should cause pity in our affections. Our eye should affect our heart. God was angry with Edom because he ‘cast off all pity (Amos 1:11).
2. Soul-mercy is in advising and exhorting sinners. Tell them in what a sad condition they are, even ‘in the gall of bitterness’. Show them their danger. They tread upon the banks of the bottomless pit. If death gives them a jog—they tumble in. And we must dip our words in honey; use all the mildness we can: ‘Gently teach those who oppose the truth.’ (2 Timothy 2:25). Fire melts; ointment mollifies. Words of love may melt hard hearts into repentance. This is soul-mercy. God made a law that, ‘If you see the donkey of someone who hates you struggling beneath a heavy load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and offer to help.’ (Exodus 23:5). Says Chrysostom, ‘We should help a donkey which is struggling beneath a heavy load; and shall we not extend relief to those who are fallen under a worse burden of sin?’
3. Soul-mercy is in reproving refractory sinners. That is a cruel mercy—when we see men go on in sin and we let them alone. And there is a merciful cruelty—when we are sharp against men’s sins and will not let them go to hell quietly. ‘Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.’ (Leviticus 19:17). Fond sentimentality is no better than cruelty. ‘Rebuke them sharply’, cuttingly (Titus 1:13). The surgeon cuts and lances the flesh—but it is in order to a cure. They are healing wounds. So by cutting reproof when we lance men’s consciences and let out the blood of sin, we exercise spiritual surgery. This is showing mercy. ‘Rescue others by snatching them from the fire’ (Jude 23). If a man had fallen into the fire, though you did hurt him a little in pulling him out, he would be thankful and take it as a kindness. Some men, when we tell them of sin say, ‘O, you are unloving!’ No! it is showing mercy. If a man’s house were on fire, and another should see it and not tell him of it for fear of waking him—would not this be cruelty? When we see others sleeping in their sin, and the fire of God’s wrath ready to burn about to burn them up–and we are silent, is not this to be accessory to their damnation?