When I read the title of Shedd’s sermon -- “The Exercise of Mercy Optional with God” --
my first thought is (I’ll read it and see if my initial sense is correct), “God did not need to show mercy to us as sinners. He was under no obligation at all. He owed us nothing but condemnation.” Yep, I think I interpreted Shedd’s title correctly! Shedd provides good insight: “Plato and Plutarch and Cicero and Tacitus were far more certain that God would punish sin, than that He would pardon it. This is the reason that there is no light, or joy, in any of the pagan religions.” On the other hand, God revealed to Moses that he is a merciful being.
Furthermore (Shedd): “Grace is not a debt. ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’” Shedd notes, further, that we will know nothing about divine grace toward the sinner “until we hear some word from the lips of God Himself upon the point.” And how he has spoken! “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Grace! ‘tis a charming sound
Harmonious to my ear;
Heaven with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.
Grace taught my wandering feet
To tread the heavenly road;
And new supplies each hour I meet,
While pressing on to God. --Philip Doddridge (18th century)