Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7
What is meant by mercifulness?
I answer, it is a melting disposition whereby we lay to heart the miseries of others and are ready on all occasions to be instrumental for their good.
How do mercy and love differ?
In some things they agree, in some things they differ, like waters that may have two different spring-heads, but meet in the stream. Love and mercy differ thus: love is more extensive. The diocese that love walks and visits in is larger. Mercy properly respects them that are miserable. Love is of a larger consideration. Love is like a friend that visits them that are well. Mercy is like a physician that visits only them that are sick. Again, love acts more out of affection. Mercy acts out of a principle of conscience. Mercy lends its help to another. Love gives its heart to another. Thus they differ, but love and mercy agree in this, they are both ready to do good offices. Both of them have soundings of bowels, and healing under their wings.
Whence does mercy spring?
Its spring-head rises higher than nature. Mercy taken in its full latitude proceeds from a work of grace in the heart. Naturally we are far enough from mercy. The sinner is a bramble, not a fig tree yielding sweet fruit. It is the character and sign of a natural man to be ‘unmerciful’ (Romans 1:31). A wicked man, like Jehoram, has ‘his bowels fallen out’ (2 Chronicles 21:19). Therefore he is compared to an adamant (Zechariah 7:12) because his heart does not melt in mercy. Before conversion the sinner is compared to a wolf for his savageness, to a lion for his fierceness (Isaiah 11:6), to a bee for his sting (Psalm 118:12), to an adder for his poison (Psalm 140:3). By nature we do not send forth oil, but poison; not the oil of mercifulness, but the poison of maliciousness.