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
(We must be merciful to the SOULS of others continued)
4. Soul-mercy is in praying for others. Prayer is the remedy used in a desperate case, and often it recovers the sick patient. ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much’ (James 5:16). As the remedy cures the sick body, so prayer cures the sin-sick soul. There is a story of one who gave his soul to the devil, who was saved through the prayers of Luther. When ‘Eutychus was over come by sleep he fell down from the third story, and was picked up dead, Paul fell on him’, that is, he effectually prayed over him and he prayed him alive (Acts 20:9-12). By sin the soul is fallen from a high loft, namely, a state of innocence. Now fervent prayer oftentimes fetches life into such a dead soul.
See what a blessed work the work of the ministry is! The preaching of the Word is nothing but showing mercy to souls. This is a mighty and glorious engine in the hand of the Lord Almighty for the beating down of the devil’s strongholds. The ministry of the Word not only brings light with it—but eye-salve, anointing the eyes to see that light. It is a sin-killing and soul-quickening ordinance. It is the ‘power of God to salvation’. What enemies are they to their own souls, who question the ministry! It is said that the people that live at the equator, curse the sun and are glad when the sun sets, because of its burning heat. Foolish sinners curse the sun-rising of the ministry and are offended at the light of it—because it comes near their sins and scorches their consciences, though in the end it saves their souls!
It reproves those who have no mercy to souls: evil magistrates; evil ministers.
Evil magistrates who either ‘take away the key of knowledge’ (Luke 11:52), or give a toleration to wickedness, allowing men to sin by a licence. The meaning of toleration is this, that if men will themselves to hell—none shall stop them. Is not nature enough poisoned? Do not men sin fast enough—but must have such political engines as serve them up higher in wickedness? Must they have such favorable gales from the breath of magistrates, as serve to carry them full sail to the devil? This is far from soul-mercy. What a heavy reckoning will these magistrates have in the day of the Lord!
Evil ministers are such as have no affections to the souls of their people. They do not pity them or pray for them. They seek not their souls—but only their money. They preach not for love—but filthy lucre. Their care is more for tithes, than souls. How can they be called spiritual fathers, who are without affections? These are mercenaries, not ministers.
Such men feed not the souls of their people with solid truths. When Christ sent out his apostles, he gave them their text, and told them what they must preach, ‘Preach, saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 10:7). ‘Upon which place,’ says Luther, ‘the ministers of Christ must preach things which pertain to the kingdom of God—pardon of sin, sanctification, living by faith.’ They are unmerciful ministers who, instead of breaking the bread of life, fill their people’s heads with airy speculations and notions; who tickle the fancy—rather than touch the conscience; and give precious souls music—rather than food.
Some there are who darken knowledge with words, and preach as if they were speaking in ‘an unknown tongue’. Some ministers love to soar aloft like the eagle and fly above their people’s capacities, endeavoring rather to be admired than understood. It is unmercifulness to souls to preach so as not to be understood. Ministers should be stars to give light, not clouds to obscure the truth. Paul was learned—yet plain. Clearness and perspicuity is the grace of speech. It is cruelty to souls when we go about to make easy things hard. This many are guilty of in our age, who go into the pulpit only to tie knots, and think it their glory to amuse the people. This savors more of pride, than mercifulness.
Such there are, too, as see others going on in sin but do not tell them of it. When men declare their sin as Sodom, it is the minister’s duty to ‘lift up his voice like a trumpet and show the house of Jacob their sin’ (Isaiah 58:1). Zeal in the ministry is as proper as fire on the altar. He who lets another sin and holds his peace, is a man-slayer. That sentinel deserves death, who sees the enemy approaching, and gives not warning (Ezekiel 3:20).
Some ministers poison souls with error. How dangerous is the leprosy of the head! A frenzy is worse than a fever. What shall we say to such ministers as give poison to their people in a golden cup? Are not these unmerciful? Others there are (unworthy the name of ministers), itineraries, the devil’s ambassadors, who ride up and down, and with Satan compass the earth to deceive and devour souls! It would pity one’s heart to see poor unstable creatures misled by crude and illiterate men, who diet the people with blasphemy and nonsense, and make them fitter for bedlam than the New Jerusalem. All these are unmerciful to souls.
Let me beseech all who fear God to show soul-mercy. Strengthen the weak; reduce the wandering; raise up those who are fallen. ‘He which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death’ (James 5:20)