Divine Mercy, Divine Goodness (Muller)

One thing I very much appreciate about historic Reformed theology is how it’s applicable to everyday life. For one example, I was just reading Richard Muller’s summary of how the Reformers and Reformed scholastics explained God’s mercy (misericordia or clementia Dei). After looking at the biblical aspects of God’s mercy, Muller gives a section on the “practical considerations” of God’s mercy. Here it is:

Of course, there is great practical benefit in meditating upon the divine attribute of mercy:

“1. We should believe this point, labor to be fully persuaded in our hearts that God’s mercies are great and many; he hath preventing mercies; how many sins hath he preserved thee from? 2. sparing mercies, Lam. 3:22, behold God’s severity toward others, and mercy toward thee; 3. renewing mercies; 4. pardoning mercies. He is willing and ready to help us out of misery. Therefore we should praise him for this attribute; how excellent and desirable a thing is mercy, therefore give him the glory of his mercy.” (Edward Leigh)

And although mercy and justice are “both infinite” and are each distributed duly, God rightly desires “to be magnified by his mercies above all his works”: he is called “Father of mercies,” not “Father of judgments.” This is true because mercy is more ultimate in its grounds and immediate cause than vengeance: the divine mercy on sinners arises from God “himself and his goodness” while the vengeance against sin is caused directly by the sins we commit (Thomas Adams).

Because of the mercy of God, the children of God need never be dismayed—not even with their own imperfections. Not even the devil can contravene the divine mercy: “for God is more merciful to help … than the devil can be malicious to hurt.” We must be encouraged to seek the divine mercy: “There is an infiniteness of mercy in God, so that whatever my sins have been, if now I will turn he will accept me; if I strive to turn he will enable me.” Furthermore, having been granted the mercy of God, we should praise it all the more and in our own lives imitate the divine mercy in being “merciful to the afflicted and distressed” (Edward Leigh). God’s mercy, then, “is an asylum for the penitent and pious, but not a refuge for the impenitent and impious” (Francis Turretin).

 Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy;  Volume 3: The Divine Essence and Attributes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 580–581.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015