Tag Archives: Gentleness

“The Redeemer of sinners” by John Newton

“Is not this indeed the great mystery of godliness? How just is the Apostle’s observation, that no man can say, Jesus Christ is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost!

How astonishing the thought,—that the Maker of heaven and earth, the Holy One of Israel, before whose presence the earth shook, the heavens dropped, when He displayed a faint emblem of His majesty upon Sinai, should afterwards appear in the form of a servant, and hang upon a cross, the sport and scorn of wicked men!

I cannot wonder that to the wise men of the world this appears absurd, unreasonable, and impossible.

Yet to right reason, to reason enlightened and sanctified, however amazing the proposition be, yet it appears true and necessary, upon a supposition that a holy God is pleased to pardon sinners in a way suited to display the awful glories of His justice.

The same arguments which prove the blood of bulls and goats insufficient to take away sin, will conclude against the utmost doings or sufferings of men or angels.

The Redeemer of sinners must be mighty. He must have a personal dignity, to stamp such a value upon His undertakings, as that thereby God may appear just, as well as merciful, in justifying the ungodly for His sake.

And He must be all-sufficient to bless, and almighty to protect, those who come unto Him for safety and life.

Such a one is our Shepherd. This is He of whom we, through grace, are enabled to say, we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.

We are His by every tie and right: He made us, He redeemed us, He reclaimed us from the hand of our enemies.

And we are His by our own voluntary surrender of ourselves; for though we once slighted, despised, and opposed Him, He made us willing in the day of His power.

He knocked at the door of our hearts; but we (at least I) barred and fastened it against Him as much and as long as possible.

But when He revealed His love, we could stand out no longer.

Like sheep, we are weak, destitute, defenceless, prone to wander, unable to return, and always surrounded with wolves.

But all is made up in the fullness, ability, wisdom, compassion, care, and faithfulness of our great Shepherd.

He guides, He protects, He feeds, He heals, and He restores, and He will be our guide and our God even until death.

Then He will meet us, receive us, and present us unto Himself, and we shall be near Him, and like Him, and with Him forever.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 1: 494-495.

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“There we shall hear the voice of war no more” by John Newton

“Mr. **** has been here, and I have been with him at **** since his return.

In some points of doctrine we differ considerably; but I trust I agree with him in the views I have of the excellency, suitableness, and sufficiency of the Saviour, and of His right to reign without a rival in the hearts of His redeemed people.

An experimental knowledge of Jesus, as the deliverer from sin and wrath, and the author of eternal life and salvation to all who are enabled to believe, is a sufficient ground for union of heart.

In this point, all who are taught of God are of one mind.

But an eager fighting for or against those points which are usually made the subjects of controversy, tends to nourish pride and evil tempers in ourselves, and to alienate our hearts from those we hope to spend an eternity with.

In heaven we shall neither be Dissenters, Moravians, nor Methodists; neither Calvinists nor Arminians; but followers of the Lamb, and children of the kingdom. There we shall hear the voice of war no more.

We are still favoured with health and many temporal blessings. My spiritual walk is not so smooth as my outward path.

In public, I am mercifully supported; in secret, I most sensibly feel my own vileness and weakness.

But through all the Lord is gracious.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 210-211.

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“He drank for your sake a cup of unmixed wrath” by John Newton

“We are a spectacle to the universe, to angels as well as to men.

Cheer up: the Lord has put you in your present trying situation, that you may have the fairer opportunity of adorning your profession of the Gospel; and though you suffer much, He is able to make you abundant amends.

Nor need I remind you that He has suffered unspeakably more for you: He drank for your sake a cup of unmixed wrath, and only puts into your hand a cup of affliction mixed with many mercies.

How ought the groans of Jesus to be as it were continually sounding in our ears? What are all other sufferings compared to His?

And yet He endured them freely. He needed not to have borne them, if He would have left us to perish; but such was His love, He died that we might live, and endured the fiercest agonies that He might open to us the gate of everlasting peace and happiness.

How amazingly perverse is my heart, that I can be more affected with a melancholy story in a newspaper concerning persons I never saw, than with all that I read of His bitter passion in the garden and on the cross, though I profess to believe He endured it all for me!

Oh, if we could always behold Him by faith as evidently crucified before our eyes, how would it compose our spirits as to all the sweets and bitters of this poor life!

What a banner would it prove against all the snares and temptations whereby Satan would draw us into evil; and what a firm ground of confidence would it afford us amidst the conflicts we sustain from the working of unbelief and indwelling sin!

I long for more of that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, that I may be preserved humble, thankful, watchful, and dependent.

To behold the glory and the love of Jesus is the only effectual way to participate of His image.

We are to set out tonight from the Interpreter’s house towards the hill Difficulty, and hope to be favoured with a sight of the cross by the way.

To stand at the foot of it with a softened heart and melting eyes; to forget our sins, sorrows, and burdens, while we are wholly swallowed up in the contemplation of Him who bore our sins in His own body upon the tree, is certainly the most desirable situation on this side the grave.

To speak of it, and to see it by the light of the Spirit, are widely different things: and though we cannot always enjoy this view, yet the remembrance of what we have seen is an excellent means of encouragement to mount the hill, and to face the lions.

It is now Saturday evening, and growing late. I am just returned from a serious walk, which is my usual manner of closing the week when the weather is fine.

I endeavour to join in heart with the Lord’s ministers and people, who are seeking a blessing on tomorrow’s ordinances. At such times I especially remember those friends with whom I have gone to the house of the Lord in company, consequently you are not forgot.

I can venture to assure you, that if you have a value for our prayers, you have a frequent share in them, yea, are loved and remembered by many here; but as we are forgetful creatures, I hope you will always refresh our memory, and quicken our prayers, by a yearly visit.

In the morning I shall think of you again. What a multitude of eyes’ and hearts will be directed to our Redeemer tomorrow!

He has a numerous and necessitous family; but He is rich enough to supply them all, and His tender compassions extend to the meanest and most unworthy.

Like the sun, He can cheer and enlighten thousands and millions at once, and give to each as bountifully as if there were no more to partake of His favour.

His best blessings are not diminished by being shared among many.

The greatest earthly monarch would soon be poor if he was to give a little (though but a little) to all his subjects; but Jesus has unsearchable, inexhaustible riches of grace to bestow.

The innumerable assembly before the Throne have been all supplied from His fulness; and yet there is enough and to spare for us also, and for all that shall come after us.

May He give us an eager appetite, a hunger and thirst that will not be put off with anything short of the bread of life.

And then we may confidently open our mouths wide, for He has promised to fill them.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 191-195.

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“There is none like Him” by John Newton

“My soul, wait thou only, only upon the Lord, who is (according to the expressive phrase, Heb. 4:13) He with whom we have to do for soul and body, for time and eternity.

What thanks do we owe, that though we have not yet attained perfectly this great lesson, yet we are admitted into that school where alone it can be learnt?

And though we are poor, slow scholars, the great and effectual Teacher to whom we have been encouraged and enabled to apply, can and will bring us forward?

He communicates not only instructions, but capacities and powers. There is none like Him.

He can make the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak: and how great is His condescension and patience! How does He accommodate Himself to our weakness, and teach us as we are able to bear!

Though all are very dunces when He first receives them, not one was ever turned out as incapable: for He makes them what He would have them to be.

O that we may set Him always before us, and consider every dispensation, person, thing, we meet in the course of every day, as messengers from Him, each bringing us some line of instruction for us to copy into that day’s experience!

Whatever passes within us or around us may be improved (when He teaches us how) as a perpetual commentary upon His good Word.

If we converse and observe with this view, we may learn something every moment, wherever the path of duty leads us, in the streets as well as in the closet, and from the conversation of those who know not God (when we cannot avoid being present at it), as well as from those who do.

Separation of dear friends is, as you observed, hard to flesh and blood; but grace can make it tolerable. I have an abiding persuasion that the Lord can easily give more than ever He will take away.

Which part of the alternative must be my lot, or when, He only knows; but in general I can rely on Him to appoint the time, the manner; and I trust His promise of strength suited to the day shall be made good.

Therefore I can for the most part rejoice, that all things are in the hand and under the direction of Him who knows our frame, and has Himself borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, in His own body.

A time of weeping must come, but the morning of joy will make amends for all. Who can expound the meaning of that one expression, ‘An exceeding, and eternal weight of glory?’ (2 Cor. 4:17)

The case of unconverted friends is still more burdensome to think of; but we have encouragement and warrant to pray and to hope.

He who called us can easily call others: and He seldom lays a desire of this sort very closely and warmly upon the hearts of His people, but when it is His gracious design, sooner or later, to give an answer of peace.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 188-189.

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“Our Guide, and Guard, our Way, and End” by John Newton

“The Word does not flourish here as I ought to wish it; but, through mercy, it is not wholly without effect. We are in good harmony, ordinances are prized, and a gospel conversation maintained, by those who profess.

Should you ask, how it is with myself, I know not what answer to give. My experience is made up of enigmas, but the sum and solution of all is that ‘I am a vile creature, but I have a good Lord.’

He has chosen me; and I, through His rich grace, have chosen Him. I trust there is an engagement between Him and my soul, which shall never be broken, because He has undertaken for both parts, that He never will forsake me, and that I never shall forsake Him.

Oh, I like those royal, sovereign words, “I will,” and “You shall.” How sweetly are they suited to the sense and long experience He has given me of my own weakness, and the power and subtlety of Satan.

If my conflicts terminate in victory, it must be owing to his own arm, and for His own name’s sake; for I in myself have neither strength nor plea.

If I were not so poor, so sick, so foolish, the power, skill, riches, wisdom, and mercy of my Physician, Shepherd, and Saviour, would not be so signally illustrated in my own case.

Upon this account, instead of complaining, we may glory in our infirmities. Oh, it is pleasant to be deeply indebted to Him, to find Him, and own Him, all in all:—

Our Husband, Shepherd, Brother, Friend,
Our Guide, and Guard, our Way, and End!

I beg a frequent interest in your prayers, and remain, dear Sir, your affectionate and obliged servant,

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 275-276.

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“Jesus is all to them who are nothing” by John Newton

“Your prayers and kind wishes for me and mine, I heartily thank you for, and hope we shall repay you (as we are enabled) in kind.

Many here have, indeed, reason to speak well of the Lord. He has been very gracious to us. But, alas! most of us may complain of ourselves.

But, unworthy as we are, He bears with us; He multiplies pardons, and He keeps us upon the whole in a persuasion that His loving kindness is better than life.

The workings of a corrupt nature, and the subtlety of our spiritual enemies, cause us much exercise; but we find One with us who is greater than our hearts, and greater than he that is in the world.

When I look at some of my people, I am filled both with joy and shame; joy to see that the Lord has not suffered my labour among them to be in vain; shame to think that I have preached so much more effectually to them than to my own heart.

It is my mercy that I am not under the law, but under grace. Were it not for this thought, I should sink.

But it is given me to know that Jesus is all to them who are nothing.

The promise whereon I trust, and the power of trusting in it, are both from Him, and therefore I am encouraged to plead, ‘Remember Thy word unto Thy servant, wherein Thou hast caused me to hope.’ (Psalm 119:49)

A sure promise, a complete atonement, a perfect righteousness, an Almighty Saviour, who is able to save to the uttermost, and has said, ‘I will in no wise cast out.’ (John 6:37)

These are the weapons with which I (alas, how feebly!) oppose the discouragements which arise from self and unbelief.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 265-266.

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“Jesus alone is able to preserve us” by John Newton

“May we ever remember that not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

I had no doubt but that you would love my dear friend; possibly I may overrate him; I own he is but a man, but I think him an uncommon one; an eminent instance of the true christian spirit. This is what is most taking with me.

Gifts are useful; but they are mere tinsel compared with the solid gold of grace. An eminency in gifts is specious and glittering; but unless grace is proportionable, very ensnaring likewise.

Gifts are like riches: if well improved, they give a man fairer opportunities of service; but if the Lord favours a man with great gifts, and in consequence thereof, considerable popularity, that man stands in a dangerous situation.

If he is not kept humble, great soon will be his fall; and to keep such a man humble, more than a common share of trials is usually needful.

My prayer for you and for myself, my dear friend, is, that we may never be suffered to infer grace from gifts, or to mistake the exercise of the one for the exercise of the other.

We have need to be saying continually, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” How else can we stand?

If we meet with opposition, it has hurt its thousands. If we are exposed to caresses and popularity, they have slain their ten thousands.

Jesus alone is able to preserve us, and He is able to preserve us fully; in the lion’s den, in the fiery furnace, in the swellings of Jordan, if He be with us, and maintain in us a sense of our unworthiness, and our entire dependence upon Him, we shall be safe.

I see that, beside the general lot of affliction in common with others, you are likely to have one peculiar trial, which might be lightly regarded by some, but not by me.

Indeed, I can sympathize with you; and, from what I have formerly felt, I am sure nothing but the grace of God can compose the mind under such a disappointment.

But remember, He has given you Himself. If He sees tit to overrule your desires, be sure it is best for you.

The Lord sees all consequences; if we could do so, we should acquiesce in His appointments the first moment.

If it is for your good and His glory, it shall yet take place; (you would not wish it otherwise;) if not, He can make it up, perhaps in kind; (for there is an old proverb, “That there is as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it;”).

But if not so, He can easily make it up in kindness, and give you such a taste of His love that you shall gladly forego all, and say as David, (Psalm 73:25).

Let other things turn out as He pleases, you must be happy, for the Lord Himself is your Guide, your Shield, and your Portion.

Keep your eye and heart, my friend, upon His work, and He will take care of your other affairs, and not withhold any good thing from you.

All hearts are in His hands. When His time is come, hard things are made easy, and mountains sink into plains.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 127-129.

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“The old weather-beaten Christian” by John Newton

“I am almost continually a burden to myself, and find such a difference between what I seem to be in the pulpit and in public, and what I really feel myself to be before the Lord, that I am often amazed and confounded.

And was it not that the Lord has been pleased in some measure to establish me in the knowledge of my justifying righteousness, and the unalterable security of His covenant of grace, I should be ready to give all up.

I am kept at a great distance from the full possession of my privileges; but, through mercy, the evils I feel are confined within myself; the Lord keeps me from stumbling outwardly, and does not suffer Satan to distress me with those grievous temptations which he has always in readiness when permitted.

I trust my hope is founded upon a rock, and that He to whom I have been enabled to commit my soul, will keep it to the end. Yet surely I am a wonder to myself.

Exercises of mind are common to all who know any thing of themselves, and have some just views of their obligations to redeeming love.

But those who preach to others must expect a double portion of trials. We need them in order to keep us humble, upon which, as a means, our success and comfort especially depend.

We need them that we may know how to speak a word in season to weary souls.

Innumerable are the trials, fears, complaints, and temptations which the Lord’s people are beset with; some in one way, some in another: the minister must, as it were, have a taste of all, or it might happen a case might come before him to which he had nothing to say.

And we need them likewise to bring our hard hearts into a feeling disposition and sympathy with those who suffer, otherwise we should be too busy or too happy to attend unto their moans.

Surely much of that hasty and censorious spirit, too often observable in young converts, arises from their having, as yet, a very imperfect acquaintance with the deceitfulness of their own hearts.

But, the old weather-beaten Christian, who has learnt by sorrowful experience how weak he is in himself, and what powerful subtle enemies he has to grapple with, acquires a tenderness in dealing with bruises and broken bones, which greatly conduces to his acceptance and usefulness.

I desire, therefore, to be resigned and thankful, and to give myself up to the Lord to lead me in whatever way He sees best.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 129-130.

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“Jesus’ first act of love in commanding love is to correct a false interpretation of Scripture” by John Piper

“If someone had said to Jesus the words, ‘Love unites; doctrine divides,’ I think Jesus would have looked deep into that person’s soul and said, ‘True doctrine is the root of love. Therefore, whoever opposes it, destroys the root of unity.’

Jesus never opposed truth to love. He did the opposite. He said that He Himself is the embodiment and sum of truth: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Referring to Himself He said, “The one who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and in Him there is no falsehood” (John 7:18).

At the end of His life, what prompted Pilate’s cynical question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) was Jesus’ comprehensive assertion about why He had come into the world: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).

Even His adversaries saw how indifferent Jesus was to people’s opinions and how devoted He seemed to be to truth. “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion” (Mark 12:14).

And when Jesus leaves the world and returns to the Father in heaven, the Spirit He would send in His place would be called “the Spirit of truth.” “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me” (John 15:26).

Therefore, unlike so many who compromise the truth to win a following, Jesus did the opposite. Unbelief in His hearers confirmed that a deep change was needed in them, not in the truth. “Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice” (John 18:38).

“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:47). “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me” (John 8:45).

In other words, when the truth does not produce the response you want—when it does not “work”—you don’t abandon the truth. Jesus is not a pragmatist when it comes to loving people with the truth.

You speak it, and if it does not win belief, you do not consider changing the truth. You pray that your hearers will be awakened and changed by the truth. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus prayed; “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

When Jesus prays that people be “sanctified in the truth,” He reveals the roots of love. Sanctification, or holiness, as Jesus understands it, includes being a loving person. He is praying that we would become loving people and would be merciful and peaceable and forgiving.

That is all included in the prayer, “Sanctify them.” And all this happens in and by the truth, not separate from the truth. The effort to pit love against truth is like pitting fruit against root.

Or like pitting kindling against fire. Or like pitting the foundation of a house against the second-floor bedroom. The house will fall down, and the marriage bed with it, if the foundation crumbles.

Love lives by truth and burns by truth and stands on truth. This is why Jesus’ first act of love in commanding love is to correct a false interpretation of Scripture.

Of course, it is possible to use truth unlovingly. For example, when a village of Samaria would not receive Jesus “because His face was set toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:53), James and John knew this was a truth-insulting response. It was an assault on the truth of Jesus.

So they said to Jesus, in defense of the truth, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54). The answer was swift and blunt: “He turned and rebuked them” (Luke 9:55).

But the solution to that unloving response was not to stay in the village and alter the truth to get a better response. He did not say to the Samaritans, “Doctrine divides, love unites, so let’s put our doctrinal differences aside and have relational unity.”

No, the solution was, “And they went on to another village” (Luke 9:56). There are many people yet to be loved with our truth. We will keep offering the saving truth in love wherever we can, and we will not be violent with those who reject us.

But the truth will not be changed. It is the root of love’s life, and the kindling of love’s fire, and the foundation of love’s strength.

When Jesus demanded that we love our enemies by contrasting this with the interpretation that said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” (Matt. 5:43) he was lovingly showing us that correcting false interpretations of the Bible is one crucial way to love our enemy.

The next obvious implication of Jesus’ words for the meaning of love is that it is not unloving to call someone an enemy. We live in an emotionally fragile age. People are easily offended and describe their response to being criticized as being hurt.

In fact, we live in a time when emotional offense, or woundedness, often becomes a criterion for deciding if love has been shown. If a person can claim to have been hurt by what you say, it is assumed by many that you did not act in love.

In other words, love is not defined by the quality of the act and its motives, but by the subjective response of others. In this way of relating, the wounded one has absolute authority.

If he says you hurt him, then you cannot have acted lovingly. You are guilty. Jesus will not allow this way of relating to go unchallenged.

Love is not defined by the response of the loved. A person can be genuinely loved and feel hurt or offended or angered or retaliatory or numb without in any way diminishing the beauty and value of the act of love that hurt him.

We know this most clearly from the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love ever performed, because the responses to it covered the range from affection (John 19:27) to fury (Matt. 27:41–42). That people were broken, wounded, angered, enraged, and cynical in response to Jesus’ death did not alter the fact that what He did was a great act of love.

This truth is shown by the way Jesus lived his life. He loved in a way that was often not felt as love. No one I have ever known in person or in history was as blunt as Jesus in the way he dealt with people.

Evidently His love was so authentic it needed few cushions. It is owing to my living with the Jesus of the Gospels for fifty years that makes me so aware of how emotionally fragile and brittle we are today.

If Jesus were to speak to us the way He typically spoke in His own day, we would be continually offended and hurt. This is true of the way He spoke to his disciples and the way He spoke to His adversaries.

People were offended in His day as well. “Do you know,” His disciples asked Him, “that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (Matt. 15:12).

His response to that information was brief and pointed: “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides” (Matt. 15:13–14).

In other words, “They are plants that do not produce the fruit of faith because God has not planted them. They don’t see my behavior as love because they are blind, not because I am unloving.” These and dozens of other things he said to both friend and foe in ways that would rock us back on our emotional heels and make many of us retreat in self-pity.

The point of this is that the genuineness of an act of love is not determined by the subjective feelings of the one being loved. Jesus uses the word “enemies.” That would be offensive to some, especially since he goes on to unpack his point with words like, “And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?” (Matt. 5:47).

He does not fret over the possible criticism that He is not being careful enough to distinguish real enemies from annoying brothers. Jesus seems to expect us to handle tough words like “enemy” mingled with tender family words like “brother.”

I do not mean to say that love is oblivious to the words it uses or the effects they may have on others. Love does care about blessing the loved one. It desires to bring the loved one out of pain and sorrow and into a deeper experience of joy in God—now and forever.

But I am stressing another side of the problem that seems unusually prevalent in our psychologized world. I am simply drawing attention to the fact that feeling unloved is not the same as being unloved.

Jesus is modeling for us in his life the objectivity of love. It has real motives and real actions. And when they are loving, the response of the loved one does not change that fact.

This is good news for the lover, because it means that God is God and the loved one is not God. The judgment of the wounded loved one is not absolute: It may be right, or it may be wrong. But it is not absolute. God is absolute.

We give an account to Him. And He alone knows our hearts. The decisive thing about our love when we stand before God is not what others thought of it, but whether it was real.

That some people may not like the way we love is not decisive. Most people did not recognize Jesus’ love in the end—and still do not today.

What matters is not that we are justified before men, but that God knows our hearts as truly (though not perfectly) loving. And He alone can make that final judgment (Luke 16:15).”

–John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 215–220.

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“Merciful, gracious, and tender” by William Plumer

“A cold, harsh, severe, untender character is no part of the product of Christianity.

Godliness is God-likeness. If we would be God’s children, we must be merciful, gracious, tender, pitiful.

He who is harsh to the unfortunate, and cruel to the needy, who never forgives the wayward, nor seeks to recover the prodigal, is not like God.”

–William Plumer, Studies in the Book of Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary With Doctrinal and Practical Remarks (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1867/2016), 986. Plumer is commenting on Psalm 112:4-5.

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