Verse 8. The Lord is merciful and gracious. Those with whom he deals are sinners. However much he favours them they are guilty and need mercy at his hands, nor is he slow to compassionate their lost estate, or reluctant by his grace to lift them out of it. Mercy pardons sin, grace bestows favour: in both the Lord abounds. This is that way of his which he made known to Moses ( Exodus 34:6 ), and in that way he will abide as long as the age of grace shall last, and men are yet in this life. He who "executeth righteousness and judgment," yet delighteth in mercy.
Slow to anger. He can be angry, and can deal out righteous indignation upon the guilty, but it is his strange work; he lingers long, with loving pauses, tarrying by the way to give space for repentance and opportunity for accepting his mercy. Thus deals he with the greatest sinners, and with his own children much more so: towards them his anger is shortlived and never reaches into eternity, and when it is shown in fatherly chastisements he does not afflict willingly, and soon pities their sorrows. From this we should learn to be ourselves slow to anger; if the Lord is longsuffering under our great provocations how much more ought we to endure the errors of our brethren!
And plenteous in mercy. Rich in it, quick in it, overflowing with it; and so had he need to be or we should soon be consumed. He is God, and not man, or our sins would soon drown his love; yet above the mountains of our sins the floods of his mercy rise.
"Plenteous grace with thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
Make and keep me pure within."
All the world tastes of his sparing mercy, those who hear the gospel partake of his inviting mercy, the saints live by his saving mercy, are preserved by his upholding mercy, are cheered by his consoling mercy, and will enter heaven through his infinite and everlasting mercy. Let grace abounding be our hourly song in the house of our pilgrimage. Let those who feel that they live upon it glorify the plenteous fountain from which it so spontaneously flows.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 8 Merciful and gracious, slow to stager and plenteous in mercy. O my soul, bere are four properties spoken of to be in God, and are all so necessary, that we could not miss one of them. If he were not "merciful" we could hope for no pardon; and if he were no more but merciful we could hope for no more but pardon; but when besides his being merciful he is also "gracious," this gives us a further hope, a hope of a donative; and then it will not be what we are worthy to receive, but what it is fit for him to give. If he were not "slow to anger" we could expect no patience; but when besides his slowness to anger he is also "full of compassion;" this makes us expect he will be the good Samaritan, and not only bind up our wounds, but take care also for our further curing. What though he chide and be angry for a time; it is but our being patient a while with him, as he a long time hath been patient with us. Sir R. Baker.
Verse 8 Slow to anger. In Scripture we find that slowness to anger, and hastiness to be angry, are expressed by the different frame of the nostrils; as, namely, when the Lord is said to be "slow to anger," the Hebrew is, long of nostrils. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 8. Plenteous in mercy. dmxykw, "great mighty in mercy," placing his chief glory in this attribute, and hereby teaching us how to estimate true greatness. George Horne.
Verse 8. Plenteous in mercy. It is a thing marvellously satisfactory and pleasing to the heart of a man to be still taking from a great heap; and upon this ground are those proverbial sayings, There is no fishing like to fishing in the sea, no service like the service of a king: because in one there is the greatest plenty and abundance of that kind of pleasure that fishers look after; and for them that serve, and must live by their service, there is none like that of princes, because they have abundance of reward and of opportunity whereby to recompense the services of those that do wait and attend upon them... And upon the same ground it is that the Scriptures, in several places do not only assert and testify that God is "merciful" and "gracious," but abundant in mercy and full of grace; and not simply that there is redemption in him, but plenteousness of redemption, Psalms 86:5 130:7; Isaiah 55:7 , "Let the wicked forsake his way," etc.; "Let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." The commodity which we stand in need of is mercy and the pardon of our sins, because we have been unholy and ungodly creatures; this commodity is abundantly in God. There it is treasured up as waters are in the store-house of the sea; there is no end of the treasures of his grace, mercy, pardon, and compassion. There is no man, being in want, but had rather go to a rich man's door to be relieved, than to the door of a poor man, if he kuoweth the rich man to be as liberal and as bountifully disposed as the poor man can be. John Goodwin, on, "Being filled with the Spirit."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- Mercy specified: "Merciful and gracious."
- Mercy qualified: "Slow to anger." Mercy itself may be angered, and then how terrible is the anger.
- Mercy amplified: "Plenteous in mercy." "He will abundantly pardon;" and he only knows what abundant pardon means. G. R.