Samuel Otes (1578/9-1658) on Common and Special Mercy

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in God is Merciful


Mercy, which is the first thing here wished for, is ascribed to God, the Creator; Peace which is the scond, to Christ the Reconciler; Love, which is the third, to the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. For God here is called “The Father of Mercies,” Christ is called “Our Peace,”and the Holy Ghost, “Love.” The Apostle therefore in saying, Mercy, Peace, and love be multiplied, is as if he should have said; “The God of Mercy forgive your sins, the God of Peace give you Peace that passes all understanding, and the God of Love grant that your Love may abound more and more, that you may be rooted and grounded in Love.

And all this proceeds from the one and the same person; for albeit Mercy be ascribed to the Father, Peace to the Son, and Love to the Holy Ghost: Creation to the Father, Redemption to the Son, and Sanctification to the Holy Ghost, yet all these create, redeem, and sanctify. For we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, we confound neither the persons, not yet their work.

Mercy be unto you, Mercy in God is not passive, but active, Non quoad affectum, sed quoad effectum. No suffering with us in our wants, but succoring us in them.

Mercy is here taken for grace and the mere favor of God. The Apostle therefore in wishing Mercy, Peace, and Love to the Saints, teaches us, Quales esse debent Christiianorum salvutationes, nos literis nostris & epistoles, honorem, epulentiam, salutem, longan vitam amicis optamus, Iudas vero, misericordiam, pacem, charitatem, & dona caelestia, his tribus, Ecclesia opus est, aliter, actum esset. And first he begins with Mercy. For instead of Grace used by the Apostle Paul in sundry of his Epistles, Jude here names Mercy, which is all one. Mercy and Grace is that, whereby all good is conveyed to us: therefore an excellent blessing to be prayed for, and this Grace and Mercy of God is fourfold:

1. General.                                                  3. Temporal.

2. Special.                                                   4. Eternal.

The general Grace and Mercy of God, are those graces and mercies, that he bestows upon all men; Hence is it, that he causes, the Sun to shine upon good and bad, and his Rain to fall upon the just and the unjust. For there be some good things which God gives indifferently both to good and bad, as Riches, Honor, Strength, Beauty, Health, &c. And there be some good things, which God gives only to the good, and not to the wicked; as saving Faith, saving Grace, a new Heart, a right Spirit, peace of Conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, eternal Life. And there are some evil tings, whereof the good taste as well as the bad; as Sickness, Sorrow, Weakness of body; Imprisonment, Famine, Sword, loss of friends, &c. And there are some evil things which God lays upon the wicked, and not upon the good; as intolerable horror of conscience, desperation, damnation, &c [Psal. 104: 17,18.]. This general Grace and Mercy of God is over all his creatures, the Fowls of the Air, the Fishes in the Sea, the beasts of the Fields: “His Mercy is over all his works,” [Psal. 145:9.].

His special Mercy is that, whereby he succors his elect. This was the Mercy of God, that preserved Lot, from the burning of Sodom [Gen. 19.]; Daniel, from the devouring jaws of the hungry Lions [Dan. 6.]; David, from the cruelty of Saul; and the Israelites, from the fiery Furnace. This is that Grace and Mercy, which the child of God above all things desires: “Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us,” [Psal. 4.].

His temporal Mercy is that whereby he spares sinners, and stands at their door, expecting and waiting their conversion. Hereupon on descants very finely, saying, When vain, pleasure bids us to sell God, and be gone, his Mercy and Grace will not so part with us; when we lie long in our sins, his Mercy and Grace receives us up: when we come unto him, his Mercy and Grace receives us; when we come not, his Mercy and Grace draws us; when we repent, his Mercy and Grace pardons us; when we repent not, his Mercy and Grace waits our repentance.

The eternal Mercy and Grace of God is that, which concerns our everlasting salvation; and this is that Mercy and Grace principally wished for, “By Grace we are saved through Faith, not of ourselves, for it is the gift of God,” [Ephes. 2.].

This word Mercy or Grace teaches us to look up unto God, not unto ourselves if we look to be saved; we choose not the Lord, but he us, vt salus esset penes sigulum, non penes lutum [Aug.]: Paul ascribes all to Grace and Mercy, “By the Grace of God,” (says he), “I am that I am, and his Grace which is in my, was not in vain:” and thus he taught in the Romans: “At this present, there is a remnant through the election of Grace; and if it be of Grace, it is no more of Works, or else Grace were no more Grace; but if it be of Works, it is no more Grace, or else were works no more work [Rom. 11:5,6.]:” an invincible Argument.

Peter lets the Jews see, Terminum a quo, & terminum ad quem pervenerunt; there state under the Law, and under Grace. “He has called you,” (says Saint Peter) “out of darkness unto his marvelous light, which in terms past were not a people, but now the people of God: which in times past were not under Mercy, but now have obtained Mercy,” [1 Pet. 2:9,10.] We have not loved God, but he us, Venut medicus ad aegrotes, via ad errantes, lux ad tenebras, vita ad mortuos, redemptor ad captivos: The Physiciancame unto the sick, the way to wanderers. We were sick, he healed us; were wandered, he reduced us: we were blind, he lightened us; we were slaves, he redeemed us: “No man comes to the Father but by him,” [John 14:6.]

This is not only that general eleos Mercy and Grace of God, which pertains to all creatures, Beasts, Fowls, Fishes, whereof I spoke before: but this is philantropia peculiar to man only: the Scripture calls it, ton pluton chrestotetos the riches of his bountifulness, &c. For “The Lord is rich in Mercy” [Ephes. 2:4]: rich in mercy, because the treasure of his Mercy and Grace is never exhausted, the fountain never dried up; rich in Mercy, because he never ceases to communicate the riches of his Mercy and Grace to us; rich in Mercy, because he pardons all our sins upon our true repentance; which in Mercy, because he not only pardons all our sins upon our true repentance, but gives us repentance, and faith to believe the remission of our sins; rich in mercy, because he gives us privative grace to escape evils, and positive enabling us to do good; finally, rich in mercy, because he prevents1 us with mercy and grace, before we seek him, and follows us with mercy and grace when we have found him.

Bernard in a certain Sermon, makes mention of a seven-fold mercy or grace, which (he says) each child of God may find in himself.

The first is preventing mercy or grace, by which the Lord preserves his Elect from falling into gross evils; Fateor & fateor (says he) nis quia Deus adiuvit me paulo minus cecidisset in omne peccatum animamea; I do and will ingeniously confess, that unless the Lord had preserved me by grace, my soul had gone near to have fallen into all sin.

The second is his forbearing mercy or grace, whereby the Lord waits for the conversion of a sinner: in regard whereof, the same Author writes thus: Ego peccabam, & tu dissimulas; non continebam a sceleribus, & tua verberibus abstinebas, “I sinned, O Lord, and thou seems not to regard it, I contained not myself from wickedness, and thou abstains from scourging me for the same.”

The third is an altering and changing mercy or grace, which makes a man settled in the resolution of holiness, whereas before he was profane, and loose in behavior.

The fourth is an embracing mercy or grace, whereby God assures the Convert his favor.

The fifth is a confirming mercy or grace, which strengthens and upholds the righteous in his goodness.

The sixth is a mercy or grace, that sets him in hope and expectation of glory.

The seventh is a crowning mercy or grace, which is the Livery and seisin,2 and full possession of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thus the LORD has seven mercies or graces, nay seventy times seven mercies, even an innumerable multitude of compassions; all of which Saint Jude here wishes unto the Saints; by which it appears how great a blessing the Apostle wishes I wishing mercy, “Mercy be unto you.”

For indeed all that we have is of mercy; not of merit, of favor, not of debt; of grace, not of nature. “It is his mercy that we be not consumed,” [Lament. 3:2.]: therefore when we pray, let this be our petition, “O God be merciful to me a sinner,” [Luke 18:13.]: and when we give thanks, let this be the foot of our Son, “For his mercy endures for ever; For his mercy endures for ever,” [Psal. 36.].

His mercy is communis peccantium partus, the common harbor of all penitent sinners. For it is not the wisdom God, nor his power, nor his justice that preserves us from destruction, but his mercy. So many idle words uttered in a day, so many vain thoughts conceived, so many evil works committed; I speak positively, and now privatively; so few prayers in us, so few thanksgiving, so few alms, so weak faith, so little knowledge, so cold zeal, so small love. It is not a mercy, but a miracle, that we are not all consumed, that the air infected us not, as it did Judea, that the heavens rain down not fire and brimstone, as they did upon Sodom; that the clouds upon not and drown us all, as they did the old world; that the earth does not open and swallow us all, as it did Dathan; such pride in the rich, such envy in the poor, such peevishness in age, such riot in your, such robbery on the land, such piracy on the Sea, such impiety in the Church, such injury in the Common-wealth, such wickedness and Atheism in all; it is a rare mercy that we be not all consumed.

Samuel Otes, An Explanation of the General Epistle of Saint Iude, (London: Printed by Elizabeth Purstow for Nicholas Bourne, an are to be sold at his Shop, at the South Entrance of the Royall Exchange, 1633), verse 2, 4th sermon, pp., 40-44.    [Some reformatting; marginal headers not included; marginal references cited inline; footnotes, italics, and underlining mine.]

[Note:  OTES (SAMUEL, the elder). Explanation of Jude in forty-one Sermons. Folio. Lond., 1633.  Of the conforming Puritan style, full of quaintnesses and singularities of learning. A book by no means to be despised. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries. ]


1Archaic word meaning: ‘to go before, precede…’

2Archaic word meaning: ‘possession or right of possession…’

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