As a member of society, you delight to render even justice to everyone, in all your various intercourse–intercourse of trade–intercourse of science, of literature, of society, of religion. But you have more delight, as a good member of society, in being able to go beyond the mere measure of justice, and, even at some personal sacrifices, in doing something to dry up the streams of human misery; your kindness wipes away the orphan’s tear, and carries gladness to the heart beating such unequaled throbs under the weeds of the widow. In all these duties you may be equally perfect, but you are not equally happy. This illustrates what we mean by the peculiar preferences of God. His delight is in the exercise of his Mercy. He delights, indeed, in justice, holiness, faithfulness; and he has an infinite delight in them; that is, his delight accords with the infinity of his nature, and is perfect in relation to the importance of the attribute he exercises. But in Mercy he peculiarly delights. This is his own repeated testimony. He is not willing that any should perish. He affirms that he has no pleasure at all in the death of him that dies. All that he has seen fit to teach us in his Word, respecting his own infinite and holy feelings, gives preeminence to his Mercy. Mercy, indeed, has its methods–its way of wisdom–its rules: if it had not, it would lose its nature and become something else. The poet failed in that so much admired conception,
“A God all mercy is a God unjust.”
That is truth, but it is not all the truth–it is too feeble for the fact. Such a God would be something more than unjust; and the licentiousness of the attribute among a world of sinners would turn the mercy into unkindness itself. Still, the Divine Being has peculiar delight in the exercise of his Mercy. God loves to forgive sinners. He loves to save them. He loves to adopt them into his family. He loves to cheer them with his promises. And never did a saint on earth have so much delight in receiving the grace of God, as the infinitely gracious God has in bestowing it. Much as you may find in the Bible to teach the infinitude of all the attributes of the Deity, and their preciousness to him, you cannot fail to see the justice of the idea that he speaks in most singular style of his Mercy. The delight which he has in it, the singular and peculiar delight, demonstrates that kind of preeminence which we have affirmed belongs to it. It is Mercy that unfolds to us the heart of the God of heaven! It is Mercy which he most of all things delights to exercise. His glory, his infinite and eternal blessedness, stand in peculiar connection with this. Justice, judgment, the vengeance he takes upon the wicked, even he himself denominates his strange work (Isaiah, xxviii. 21). It is not what God likes. Mercy is more natural to him. It is more like God. Even when Mercy is refused–rejected –spurned; and judgment is compelled to act on the wicked, Mercy goes out upon the Mount of Olives to shed her tears over the devoted city! He wept over it: Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Ichabod Spencer, The Mercy of God, in Sermons of the Rev. Ichabod Spencer (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication. 1855), 1:269-271. [Some spelling modernized and underlining mine.]