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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 35 - 1 Timothy 1:13 - Mercy to the Chief of Sinners Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




Mercy To The Chief Of Sinners.


"But I obtained mercy."-1 Timothy 1:13.



     This is the sum of Paul's history; its alpha and omega. So is it of each saved one. It is all that he can say for himself; all the account he can give of his mighty change. He found mercy. God took pity upon him. How did you turn? we ask him. He answers, I found mercy. How did you become a follower of Christ? I obtained mercy. That is all.

     Here, then, is a great outstanding fact at the outset of Church history; an illustration of the gospel and the power of the cross, while both were yet new and fresh. Paul found mercy. Sin abounded; grace much more. This is no conjecture or myth, but authentic fact. It is solid rock; a genuine piece of history, which has but one meaning, on which no ambiguity rests; one of the many illustrations of the cross and its testimony which Church history abounds in.

     I. It is a very unlikely fact.-'But,' he says, 'but I obtained mercy.' No one seemed farther off; more opposed; more fitted for wrath; more unlikely; but he obtained mercy. His thorough self-righteousness; his good opinion of his life; his scorn of the cross; his dislike of the gospel,-these made it very unlikely that he should become the proclaimer of the cross, a monument of grace. Yet so it was. He obtained mercy! He was not in the way, nor near it; quite away from it. Yet he was led in! O free love of God, how strong art thou!

     II.  It is a very marvelous fact.-Some things are unlikely, yet cannot be called marvelous. The sudden return of an absent friend may be unlikely, but not marvelous. Warm sunny weather in mid-winter may be unlikely, but not marvelous. This, however, is as marvelous as unlikely. The wonder is expressed in the 'I;' 'but I obtained mercy.' Greatest of all wonders upon earth!  Saul of Tarsus,-the Pharisee,-the hater of Christ, the persecutor, the blasphemer, the mocker, the murderer! If ever there was special joy and special wonder in heaven over a saved sinner, it was over Saul! Of all incredible things the most incredible! It has been, and it will be a wonder; an everlasting wonder; a wonder so great as to be quite beyond belief and beyond explanation, but for the exceeding riches of the grace of God.  The raging wolf of Benjamin transformed into a gentle, lamb of Christ's flock!

     III. It is a very blessed fact,-'I obtained mercy!' Yes, God took pity upon me! The greatness and the freeness of this mercy are the things which make it so blessed. Not only a thing to be wondered at, but rejoiced in. A thing of gladness. Mercy! God's great love exemplified and embodied in a fact like this. The lost one saved; how blessed! The chief of sinners saved; how blessed! The most lost of all saved; how blessed! Included in this mercy are forgiveness and righteousness and eternal life,-is not all this truly blessed? Bless the Lord, O my soul! This our brother was dead and is alive again!

     IV. It is a very cheering fact.-It contains in itself a gospel; nay, the gospel in all its brightness. Here is the chief of sinners saved! What encouragement! Here is the pattern of God's long-suffering and boundless grace. Can any sinner say that Paul's case does not suit his, or that he has gone beyond the reach of that free love which laid hold of Saul of Tarsus? If he was saved, why not you? In him sin abounded, but grace much more abounded; why not so in you? Do you object to be a monument of grace, a signal trophy of free love? Or can you indulge the foolish thought that you are too far gone in sin to be a monument of grace,-too thoroughly set on fire of hell to be plucked from the burning?

     V. It is a very glorious fact.-There is no dishonour in it anywhere or to any one. It is one of the many facts of earth which bring glory to God in the highest; and it is one which brings special glory to His name. It is one of a class, all of which are very glorious; but it transcends them all in glory. Out of it comes glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; glory greater than that which comes from the conversion of an ordinary sinner; glory on earth; glory in heaven; glory in the Church; glory through all ages; glory which no other fact has equaled; glory to the grace of God, to His power and love; glory to the cross and blood and righteousness of Christ; glory to the almightiness and love of the Holy Ghost.

     VI. It is a many sided fact.-A fact of universal bearing and import, which tells on every side, in a thousand ways, on all classes; a fact which has a variety of aspects, all of them precious.

     (1.) It is a fact for the Jew.-Here is a Jew, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, set forth as a monument of mercy; loved, saved, and honoured, though the foremost of his nation in opposition to the cross and the gospel. What a word to Israel! If he was saved, what Jew need despair?

     (2.) It is a fact for the Gentile.-He is saved by God, in order to be an apostle of the Gentiles. As such he speaks and writes; bearing God's message to the nations afar off. His conversion is light to the Gentile,-to Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Rome, more than to Jerusalem.

     (3.) It is a fact for the Church of God.-That Church is composed of sinners who have obtained mercy,-of Sauls. In him the Church sees the rock whence it was hewn, and the hole of the pit whence it was digged. No boasting here! All is grace.

     (4.) It is a fact for the world.-Here is one of its worst fragments broken off and taken out. What sinner need despair? Saul obtained mercy. Why not you?

     (5.) It is a fact illustrating God's character and ways.-In it we see (1) long-suffering; (a) sovereignty; (3) grace; (4) power. God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. Here are the heights and depths of mercy; salvation to the uttermost; love to the chief of sinners. He who plucked Saul from the fire, can pluck you. He has no pleasure in your death. His desire is that you should live and not die.