“All His footsteps were nothing but mercy” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“You who are godly, ‘Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy’ (Hos. 10:12); ‘Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually’ (Hos. 12:6). In order to stir you up more to this end, give heed to the following matters with an obedient heart.

First, precepts teach, but examples attract.

Therefore, observe those compassionate persons who have gone before you, and have left you an example. The most perfect example is the Lord Jesus, whom you ought to follow joyfully and willingly, since He is altogether lovely to you.

Read only the history of His life, the gospels, and you will perceive that all His footsteps were nothing but mercy. Time and again you will read: “Jesus being moved with compassion…”

He was not merely moved, however, but His compassion culminated in deeds. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave the oppressed their dead again, and traversed the entire country doing good.

In doing so He has left us an example, so that we would follow in His footsteps. Therefore, out of love for Him, conduct yourself as He did. Your name “Christian” also obligates you to this.

Furthermore, add to this the example of Job. Who can read about his compassion without being moved to follow his example? “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor” (Job 29:15-16); “If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (for from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother‟s womb;) if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep” (Job 31:16-20). That was exemplary.

Add to the example of this man the example of a compassionate woman: Tabitha or Dorcas. Observe the following of her: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did … and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them” (Acts 9:36, 39).

She was a mother to the poor! She did not occasionally do a good deed, but rather she was full of, and overflowing with, good works and alms (gifts which are the manifestation of compassion). The Greek word ἐλεημοσυνῶν (elémosúne) is a composite word and a derivative of ἐλεέω (eleéo), which means to have compassion.

Thus, she did not only give, but rather she gave, being moved with compassion. First the heart was moved, and the heart thus moved, in turn moved her hand. She did not only buy material from which she made clothing, but her benevolent love was so great that it was her delight to do the sewing herself and to dress the widows with the work of her own hands.”

—Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 4: Ethics and Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1995), 4: 122.

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