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MERCY REJOICETH AGAINST JUDGMENT
“He shall have judgment without mercy who hath shown no mercy. Mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”—Jas. 2:13.
THE word judgment here stands for sentence—the sentence of sin, death. It therefore represents justice, because in man’s trial it was Justice which inflicted the sentence of death. Mercy is the fruit or result of love, and therefore represents love. Hence the case, Mercy against Judgment is equivalent to Love against Justice. The thought would be that divine Love has secured a triumph over divine Justice.
At first thought there would seem to be an inconsistency in this view: for how could love triumph over justice, since the Scriptures, as well as reason, assure us that justice must be the very foundation of all divine government; and that to ignore it would mean the destruction of government and order,—anarchy, disorder. It is when we inquire of the Lord’s Word, how his Love gains a victory over justice, that we gain an insight into the beautiful harmony and coordination of these divine attributes—Love and Justice. The Scriptures assure us that “God is Love,” and that “Justice is the foundation of his throne,” or government. (1 John 4:16; Psa. 89:14.) Since God himself is Love, he can do nothing that can be derogatory or opposed to love; and since his government is founded upon strictest justice he can do nothing that would not be in harmony therewith. His own character and law are the bulwarks on either side of the subject, each as high and as strong as the other.
How then, can love and mercy gain a conquest and rejoice over justice and the sentence? The Apostle answers the question, assuring us that our justification from the sentence is by divine grace, “through the redemption that is in Christ: whom God sent forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction of justice] through faith in his blood … that he might be just, and [yet be] the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.—Rom. 3:24-26.
Here then, is the triumph of love and mercy, not through a failure of justice, not through conquering it, but through a satisfaction of justice, its appeasement by the payment of a ransom price, a corresponding price—a man’s life for a man’s life: the man Christ Jesus for the man Adam and those who were involved in his disobedience and its sentence or curse. From this standpoint alone would it be possible for love and mercy to triumph over divine justice and its sentence; a triumph in which the justice of God can equally rejoice.
The original trial of father Adam in the Garden of Eden was along the lines of strictest justice, and his sentence was without mercy: it was inflicted without the slightest deviation. Subsequently, when God introduced the Covenant of Law at Mount Sinai, with the nation of Israel, it also was along the lines of justice: it was an offer of eternal life to any Israelite who could and would live up to the divine law;—it was justice, without mercy. It had indeed an admixture of leniency as represented by the annual Atonement Day with its benefits extending to that nation for the ensuing year, but the sacrifices which were offered according to the Law, the Apostle assures us, “could never take away sin.” It could cover the sin temporarily for the year, and furnish a new opportunity for a fresh start, but it could never cancel the sins past, nor atone for sins future; hence it was still a reign of Law, a reign of death, at the hands of Justice. Love did not and could not intervene to spare the sinner; the most it could do was to point forward, in promise and in type, to the coming Deliverer, who would satisfy the claims of justice, and set at liberty the prisoners of sin and death. God was Love before he sent his Son, just as truly as he is Love since he sent his Son; but God’s Love was not manifested previously, as it was in that great act of love. “Herein was manifested the love of God, in that he gave his only begotten Son.” The giving of his son to be our redemption price was in connection with the making of a New Covenant, a new agreement, a new compact, between God and those of his creatures fallen into sin who might desire to return to his favor.
The New Covenant was an arrangement by which God’s love might exercise mercy toward the sinner. The language of the New Covenant is apparently an abandonment of strict justice in the Lord’s dealing with the sinner, and the adoption of a course of treatment which deviates to some extent from strict justice, and shows mercy to those who desire mercy, and desire to come back into harmony with God, and desire to attain again the perfection lost through sin. The language of the New Covenant is, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”—Heb. 8:12.
The Apostle assures us that this New Covenant could only go into force, could only become operative
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toward us, by virtue of the atoning sacrifice which the Father designed, and which the Lord Jesus joyfully and obediently fulfilled. He assures us, and so also does our Lord Jesus, that the death of Christ sealed or ratified or made binding and complete this New Covenant between God and man, of which Jesus is the Mediator. Thus our Lord himself, when speaking of his death, symbolized by the cup, said, “This is the blood of the New Covenant shed for many for [in order to] the remission of sins.” Sins could not be remitted except as justice would first be met, and the one who met the claims of justice on behalf of the sinner would be the one who would have the right to remit the sinner’s guilt, and thus to be the Mediator between Justice and the sinner.
The Apostle Paul gives us the same view of the matter; saying, that “the blood [death, sacrifice] cleanseth us” and for this cause he is the Mediator of the New Covenant: that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Heb. 9:14,15.) We see, then, that since Calvary, since the sealing of the New Covenant with the blood of the Mediator, since that New Covenant was thus ratified or made effective, the triumph of love and mercy over justice, and the sentence of death originally inflicted, has been a fact. And since the offence and the sentence were of one man, and rested upon the many through him, even upon all his posterity, so likewise the New Covenant is by the one man, Christ Jesus, and is applicable to not only the first offence committed in Eden, but applicable to all the “many offences” since committed because of weakness and depravity, introduced by the one transgression.—Rom. 5:12,15-21.
But while the New Covenant is thus for Adam and all his posterity, nevertheless there are conditions attached to this Covenant, which limit its action.
(1) Faith in it—and acceptance of its provisions or demands: and this implies a knowledge of the covenant conditions, for no man can either accept or reject that of which he has no knowledge, as the Apostle says, “How shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard?”
(2) Obedience, as the result of faith, is required to the extent of ability—obedience to the law of the New Covenant.
Hence, although the New Covenant is for the entire race, it is not as yet available to any but a small minority. Few have the knowledge of God and of his arrangement in Christ under this covenant, which would permit of faith in it. And of those who have received some knowledge of the great fact, and who have with more or less clearness exercised a faith in the atonement, comparatively few have taken the second step of obedience. Those who have taken the first step of faith are, on this account, reckoned as justified—to the intent that they may take the second step of full obedience to the requirements of the covenant. Those who have taken the second step have not lost the first step of justification, but have added thereto the step of sanctification,—consecration,—devotion. And only to the latter class belongs the full benefit of this covenant.
These two steps, (1) Faith, and (2) Obedience, were illustrated in typical Israel, and in the institution of their typical covenants, at the hand of their typical mediator, and with the blood of their typical sacrifice for sins. The Lord made known to Israel his covenant, and they assented thereto, and said, “All these things will we do,” accepting Moses also as their mediator. This was the first step, corresponding with us to the step of faith and justification through faith. Then Moses took the blood of the sacrifice of atonement,—the blood of their covenant, and sprinkled it upon the book; i.e., upon the tables of the law, as representing God and his Word, the law or basis of his covenant with them, which they were to observe and obey. Moreover, he sprinkled also all the people with that blood, saying, “This is the covenant which God hath enjoined upon you.” This was not a meaningless performance. The moment the drop of blood touched the Israelite, it meant that the covenant was in operation, in full force and power, on him and toward him; that God was bound to him by the covenant, and he was bound to God by the covenant. So likewise in the antitype, after we have heard, known, and have exercised faith, then the Lord requires that if we are in harmony with him, and desire to enter into this new covenant, we shall take our position with those who receive the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things for us than any typical blood, and that by receiving this blood of sprinkling we shall not only be justified from our past sins, but thereby also we shall recognize ourselves as henceforth bounden, obligated, covenanted to the Lord, as his people.—1 Pet. 1:2.
Moreover, as Israel was bound by that covenant to the law of God, as promulgated by their mediator, Moses, so we spiritual Israelites, who have fully entered the New Covenant relationship, and who have had the seal of the New Covenant, the blood of Christ, put
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upon us, are thereby bound to all the terms and conditions of that new covenant,—to its obligations as well as to its blessings: and these obligations are expressed in the law of the New Covenant, promulgated by the mediator of the new covenant, namely the royal law of Love.
There are many false apprehensions respecting the New Covenant: one is to the effect that the law of
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the old covenant is also the law of the New Covenant. But not so: as the New Covenant is higher than the Law Covenant, and as its mediator is higher than the mediator of the Law Covenant, so the law itself is higher still and grander still than the law of the Mosaic covenant. Altho the latter was holy and just and good (Rom. 7:12), the law of the New Covenant is sublime. The Apostle declares that the law of the New Covenant is in full harmony with the law of the old covenant, that it is really the same law, only that our Mediator has magnified it, and made it still more honorable, adorable. The law of the covenant which Moses mediated reads, “Thou shalt not” do thus and so; the law of the New Covenant is briefly comprehended in one word, Love; “Thou shalt love.”
O, how much difference there is between these two laws, notwithstanding all their many points of harmony. “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal,” might be understood by some, perhaps, to leave room for a willingness or desire to steal, or a willingness or desire to murder, if the evil acts themselves were abstained from. But the one command, “Thou shalt love,” not only leaves no room for stealing and murder, but leaves no room for any thought that would be akin to these evil deeds. More than this, it is not merely a law of negatives, commanding us to abstain from doing and from even thinking evil; but it goes much further in positively requiring of us to think good and do good—to fulfil “the royal law” “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor.”
Many who think that they have entered into the New Covenant relationship with the Lord are evidently mistaken. They have perhaps believed in Jesus, and in his sacrifice for sins, and have desired his blessing and liberty from the curse of death; but they have not recognized nor accepted the corresponding obligations on their part. They have not stood up before the Lord to swear allegiance to him and to the law of his covenant, and to be sealed with the blood which seals that covenant. They are deluding themselves in thinking they are under the terms of the New Covenant, when they are not—not having taken the necessary second step to make them beneficiaries under its arrangement. They have heard of “the royal law of love,” they know of it as the Golden Rule of the New Covenant, yet they have never, by consecration, put themselves under that law. They have never recognized it as being the law over them, by which they are to be controlled, and by which eventually they are to be judged. It is a work of kindness to such to point out to them clearly and distinctly that they are deceiving their own selves, and that those who do not accept of and come under the royal law of the New Covenant have neither part nor lot in the blessings which flow from that covenant.
It is time that all who profess faith and loyalty to the Lord and to the New Covenant should recognize themselves as Covenanters—those who have made a compact, a covenant, with the Lord through Christ Jesus, and who are bound by the law of that covenant. And if they have done this intelligently, it is high time that they should be measuring every act and word and thought of life by the Golden Rule of this Covenant, which our Lord Jesus expresses most succinctly, saying, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”—Luke 6:31.
THE ROYAL LAW
Our Lord and the Apostles, in all their teaching and writing, inculcated this royal law of the New Covenant. It was along this line that our Lord said to the disciples, “Judge not [harshly, unmercifully, ungenerously,] that ye be not [so] judged; for with whatever measure of cold justice and mercilessness you measure others, the same shall be meted out to you. The Apostle James, in our text, repeats the same thought, saying, “He shall have judgment [just sentence] without mercy who hath showed no mercy.” That is to say, if we have come under the blessed provisions of the New Covenant, it means not only that we have accepted of God’s mercy through Christ in the forgiveness of our sins, but also that a condition upon which we receive divine mercy was that we ourselves would be governed by the same rule of love and mercy towards our fellow-creatures. If, therefore, we fail to follow the Golden Rule, we mark ourselves as rejectors of the covenant of grace, and as those who despise divine favor, and who trample upon and make light of the great sacrifice by which this favor of the New Covenant was made available to us.
Such a course, persisted in intelligently and intentionally, would seem to result in the Second death; for, as the Apostle declares, if we show no mercy to others, if we attempt to mete out justice without mercy, the result to ourselves will be that we will be treated without mercy,—on lines of strictest justice. This would mean that we would be without any benefit in the New Covenant, and without any covering or protection in the Mediator, and would fall directly into the hands of Justice, without a covering for our blemishes. This is the condition of affairs which the Apostle Paul points out to us, in connection with which he says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” It is a fearful thing for imperfect beings like ourselves to fall into the hands of strict justice and its judgment, and to obtain no mercy.
This would mean nothing short of the Second
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Death, for as the Apostle illustrates, the one who despised the typical covenant and the law given by its mediator died without mercy: much more, might we suppose, that he who has accepted the terms of the New Covenant, and who has intelligently heard from its Mediator the law which must govern all who would be blessed by that covenant (the law of love), and who willingly and intentionally despises and rejects the claims of that law, is worthy of death. And this death, as the Apostle intimates, would be a greater, a sorer, punishment than the one inflicted for the violation of the typical covenant—it would be sorer or more disastrous, in that it would be the Second Death, the end of all hope; because those thus condemned had enjoyed the opportunities and privileges of the New Covenant, and had despised and rejected them.
Nor should such radical treatment of transgressors against the conditions of the New Covenant surprise us: the same conditions will, we believe, obtain in the next age, in the Millennium. The world of mankind, when brought to a knowledge of divine grace, will be invited to fully subject themselves to all the terms and conditions of the law of love. Those who endeavor to make progress in this direction will have the blessing and the assistance of the great Mediator, while those who reject the principles of this law of love to God and love to man—”The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” will be rejecting this law, be rejecting the life which is attached thereto. And such rejectors of the law of the New Covenant are to be esteemed as rejectors of all the grace “which first contrived the way to save rebellious man.” Such rejectors will be despisers of God, who was the Author of this plan of salvation. They will be rejectors of the blood of Christ, which sealed the New Covenant. And figuratively speaking, they may be said to trample upon that grace of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. Very properly, eternal life is not intended for such. It would not be a real blessing for such, and they in turn would be an injury and a curse to all those who shall come into full accord with the Lord and with the spirit of his law of love.
Let us, then, who have heard of the grace of God in Christ, and who have accepted of that grace by entering into the obligations of the New Covenant—let us remember daily, hourly, to let this law of love rule in our hearts, and in all our conduct. Let us remember that it not only means supreme love to God, which places the will and Word of the Lord paramount not only to our own wills, but also to the wills of others, and thus makes us loyal in the highest sense of the word, and in every affair of life, to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Let us remember, secondly, that the law of love is to operate toward our fellow men, and to lead us to “do good unto all men as we have opportunity—especially to the household of faith.” Let us remember that love not only would not kill the neighbor, nor steal from the neighbor, but that it would hinder us from speaking evil of the neighbor, from stabbing him with slander, and from stealing from him a good name, which is more to him than his purse. Let us remember that love would not only utterly repudiate and contradict and hinder such conduct, but that on the reverse, it would lead us to be kind, gentle, patient, forgiving, merciful, not only to them that love us, and who are gentle and kind to us, but also as our Master explained, to the unkind, to the unthankful, to enemies who injure us, and who say all manner of evil against us falsely. “Love suffereth long and is kind.”
Love and its consequence, mercy, take hold upon the heart, the sentiments, the affections of life, and should ultimately permeate every channel of life. Thus love, mercifulness, would extend not only to the household of faith and our own family households, and to our neighbors, but also to the dumb animals. The man who has accepted love (mercy) as the ruling and controlling principle of life, the law of the New Covenant, which is to control in every act and word and thought, will be loving (merciful) toward his horse, toward his dog, his chickens,—toward everything with
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which he has to do. And if love (mercy) would restrain him from whipping his horse unmercifully, and if it would lead him to provide amply for the sustenance and comfort of the dumb creatures under his care, will not the same spirit of love extend also along to higher lines of the family, and lead him to be thoughtful of the comfort and welfare of all the human beings under his care, in matters both spiritual and temporal? And if it would stay his hand from smiting his beast an unnecessary blow, would it not much more stay his or her tongue from smiting the hearts and feelings of humanity with whom he or she may come in contact, with needlessly sharp, cutting words, irony, sarcasm, etc.—or still worse, with the poisoned blade of slander and suspicion and evil suggestion and surmise?
And all of this which applies to the beast, to the home circle and family, applies with equal or still more force to the family of God, the Church; hence the Apostle urges that evil speaking, bitterness, anger, wrath, malice, hatreds, strifes, envyings, which are all parts of the old nature, the nature of the world and of the devil, be put away. These are to be supplanted by the new spirit of Christ, in harmony with the law of the New Covenant,—Love—with its gentleness, meekness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly-kindness. “If these things be in you and abound they shall make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that
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lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore, the rather, brethren, give diligence [to the cultivation of these graces] to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet. 1:8-11.
He who finds his heart not in harmony with this law of the New Covenant, love—mercy, kindness, gentleness, goodness—lacks the evidence of proof that he is in any sense of the word accepted as a son of God, and a joint heir with Christ. If he have not this spirit of love, he will find it impossible to go far in the footsteps of the Master, for the sacrifice of Christ was not vain-glorious, not for outward show, not for honor of men, but prompted by love—toward God and men. So likewise with us, if we have not love in our hearts for the brethren, and the love of gentleness and benevolence toward all men, and even toward the brute creation, we have not the spirit which will carry us through in making the sacrifices necessary under present conditions. It will only be a question of time with such when the power of pride or vain-glory, holding them in the way of sacrifice, will snap asunder, and selfishness take full control. He who would be faithful even unto death, walking in the footsteps of the Master, must receive of the Master’s spirit of love, before he can thus follow him. As the Apostle declares, “He that saith, I love God, and hateth his brother, is a liar. He that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?” Hence, the Scriptures place the love of the brethren as one of the evidences of our having been begotten of the spirit, and of our being in touch with the Master.
THIS LAW IN PRACTICAL OPERATION
And love of the brethren does not mean merely love for a faction, or clique, or for some of the brethren who have natural qualities which we admire. It means love for all who have accepted the New Covenant and are seeking to walk by the Golden Rule of love. It means that if some have peculiarities of natural development and disposition, which are discordant to our ideas and sentiments, nevertheless, we will love and cherish them, and cheerfully serve them, because they are trusting in the Lord, and have been accepted of him, and have adopted the law of the New Covenant, the royal law of liberty and life, as their standard. We thenceforth know them not after the flesh, with its peculiarities and knots and twists: but after the new nature, as “new creatures.” It means also that each of us in proportion as we discover our own natural crooks and twists, which are contrary to the law of love, will seek to get rid of these imperfections of the flesh as rapidly as possible, and to make them as little obtrusive and offensive to others as possible.
From this standpoint love will not be forever noting the defects of the various members of the body of Christ, nor holding them up to ridicule and scorn of others; but each will be, so far as possible, fully as anxious to cover the defects of others as to cover his own defects; and to sympathize with others in their conflicts with their besetments, as he sympathizes with himself, and desires that the Lord shall sympathize with him, in his own conflict with his own imperfections. “If any man have not the spirit of Christ [the disposition of Christ, love] he is none of his.”—Rom. 8:9.
The object of the present call of the Church, in advance of the call of the world, to share in the benefits and privileges of this New Covenant, is to select in advance, not those that are perfect, not those who are the copies of God’s dear Son, but those who desire and will seek to become copies of God’s dear Son, “conformed to the image of his Son.” That image is love itself, for as God is love, so Christ’s character is love, the express image of the Father. This is the mold into which we are to be fashioned. But God will not impress us into this mold; he will not force upon us these lines of character: rather, the only influences which he exerts to this end are the “exceeding great and precious promises; that by these we might become partakers of the divine nature” and impress upon ourselves the divine character of love, and thus escape the corruption that is in the world through selfishness; or rather, we are to keep ourselves in the love of God while he causes the pressure of all things to deeply engrave it upon us.—Jude 21.
The matter is left open to us; we can either avail ourselves of these promises and permit them to mold and fashion us according to the copy, little by little, daily and hourly, in thought, in word and in deed, or we can resist their proper influence, and we can hold the truth in unrighteousness. Those who take the latter course are purchasing for themselves thereby bitter disappointment; for such are not of the kind to whom the Lord will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.” The degree of our devotion to the Lord, therefore, will be indicated in the degree of our love for him and his; and the degree of our love and devotion will be manifested by our activity in conquering self and its selfishness, in all its ramifications throughout the affairs of life, and bringing all our thoughts and talents, great or small, into active service, prompted by love to God and to his people. And such will appreciate the sentiments of the Apostle, when he said, “We [who have
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received of the begetting of the holy spirit of our Master, the spirit of love, and who have grown to some extent in the knowledge of him—we] ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
THE ROYAL LAW DURING THE MILLENNIUM
These same principles will be applicable to some extent during the Millennial age: note some of the differences between then and now, in the operation of this New Covenant.
First, the Mediator shall then draw or call all men to a knowledge of the grace of God bestowed upon them in the provisions of this New Covenant; whereas now all are not called, but only “Whomsoever the Lord your God shall call,” for no man cometh unto the Son now, except the Father who sent the Son draw him. (Jno. 6:44.) Not many great, or wise, or learned, or rich are called.
Second, the acceptance of the New Covenant then will be less a matter of faith and more a matter of knowledge, than now; because the Lord shall take away the vail of ignorance which now is spread over all the earth, and the blinded eyes shall see out of the obscurity.—Isa. 25:7; 29:18.
Third, nevertheless it will be equally necessary that each one who would then avail himself of the blessed provisions of the New Covenant shall for himself enter into a positive covenant with the Mediator, that he will obey the law of the New Covenant, Love. Love is the voice or command of the great Teacher, who shall then stand up with authority, and cause that all the world of mankind shall hear this message. “It shall come to pass that whosoever will not hear [obey] that prophet shall be cut off from among his people.” All who will not conform themselves to the law of love, the law of the Millennial Kingdom, shall be cut off in the Second Death.
Fourth, but even in the Millennial age God will not compel mankind to be conformed to this law. He will compel them to bow to and acknowledge the rule of love, as it is written, “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess;” because, when the Kingdom is established, and righteousness is laid to the line, and justice to the plummet, every violation of the law of that Kingdom, the Golden Rule, will meet with swift punishment; to the intent that evil doers shall be afraid, and that the righteous shall flourish. But God will still not impress the law of love upon the hearts of any; he leaves that for each to do for himself, just as at the present time. Each then, as now, must “put away” from his heart selfishness and all of the concomitant evils resulting from sin. Each then, as now, must “cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the reverence of the Lord” (2 Cor. 7:1); because God seeketh not such as are merely forced into obedience,—he “seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth”
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—such as love the law of God with all their heart, and who are at warfare with selfishness and sin, especially in themselves.
Hence we see that at the close of the Millennial age, after the full opportunity has been granted to the world to have two-fold experience—now, with sin and selfishness, and their misrule, and the evil results; and then, with righteousness and love, and their blessed rule of peace and joy—when all shall have had fullest opportunity to develop in their hearts the spirit of love, then will come a test, a trial, in the close of the Millennial age, which will prove and demonstrate those whose love and fidelity to the Lord are of the heart, versus those whose obedience has been because of expediency. This trial, we may suppose, will not be a trial to see whether or not they will commit some open and flagrant wrong, but rather like the trial of father Adam in his perfection, a trial along the lines of obedience and disobedience, and whether love has been permitted to rule and take full possession of the heart, with resultant faithfulness to God and every principle of righteousness which would trust the Lord and follow strictly in his way.
The result will be that all of the world who then shall not have the spirit of love properly developed, will be cut off in the Second Death, as unfit for eternal life, or to go beyond the Millennium into the grand conditions;—respecting which God has promised us that there shall be no more dying, no more sighing, no more crying, no more pain, there; because all the former things shall have passed away—all the things of sin, and all who have sympathy or love for sin.
The victory in this race is not because of willing, nor for perfect running, yet it is only to him that willeth and that so runneth—through Christ. Thus Mercy rejoiceth against Justice, yet he that shows no mercy and who thus shows himself lacking in love shall receive no mercy. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and for such are all the riches of divine mercy and grace.
— July 1, 1898 —