Robert Traill preached thirteen sermons on the text, ‘Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,’ Hebrews 4:16.
In the seventh of these, he offered four pieces of advice for people who have not yet received saving mercy (or don’t think they have): Ask for mercy, receive mercy, plead mercy, and hope in God’s mercy.
Somewhat abridged, this is how he expanded on the point about asking for mercy.
(i) Ask mercy like itself. … If only our begging bore some tolerable proportion to the great blessing of God’s saving mercy, what mighty praying would there be? Let not mercy be sought as a small thing. …
(ii) Ask mercy at the right door. There is not a crumb of saving mercy that comes to any perishing sinner, but by Jesus Christ. …
(iii) Ask mercy in God’s time. … If you will beg his mercy today, you may have it, and it shall endure for ever. But God never gave an allowance and liberty to any man, to spend one day or hour in consulting whether he should beg God’s mercy or not. … for a perishing sinner, that hath an offer of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ, there is no delay allowed, but only he is bid ask it presently.
I’m intending to also post what he had to say on the topic of receiving mercy, but for the moment I especially like what he said about ‘pleading mercy.’ This isn’t the same as asking for mercy – he seems to mean making mercy your plea, an argument to use in support of your asking.
When you beg it, use no other plea for mercy, but mercy. When you beg mercy, you must beg mercy only for mercy’s sake. … Wherefore doth God show mercy? Because he will show mercy, and delights in it, Micah 7:18. …
This is the most positive way imaginable to put across the truth that there is nothing whatsoever in any human being which could possibly motivate God to extend mercy to them – nobody has a right to be saved, nobody deserves to be saved, nobody can offer anything about themselves as an incentive to God to save them – neither their perceived goodness nor their perceived misery.
In fact it reminds me of what Daniel said in his prayer, Dan 9:8-18:
O Lord, to us belongs confusion of face, … because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him, neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. … the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he does, for we obeyed not his voice. … O my God, incline thine ear and hear, … for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.
Even though a person asking for mercy is characterised by nothing other than sin, rebellion, and disobedience, they can still come to the throne of grace, if they come for mercy’s sake.