Mercy is that benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant. In this sense, there is perhaps no word in our language precisely synonymous with mercy; that which comes nearest to it is grace. It implies benevolence, tenderness, mildness, pity or compassion, and clemency, but exercised only towards offenders. mercy is a distinguishing attribute of the Supreme Being. To be or to lie at the mercy of, to have no means of self-defense, but to be dependent for safety on the mercy or compassion of another, or in the power of that which is irresistible; as, to be at the mercy of a foe, or of the waves.Webster’s American Dictionary

Mercy is a disposition to be kind and forgiving.The Oxford English Dictionary

“You must be supreme justice tempered with mercy, not mercy tempered with justice, which fails, for it is too soft.”—Edna Lister

Mercy is compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power. Grace is the milk of God’s mercy overflowing to nourish the soul, yet grace is obtained only by perfect surrender of self, repentance and devotion to God, which turn the divine judgment into mercy. Mercy is an absolute principle under Love (God is merciful); mercy is an abstract principle rooted in Love, a law of being (you must be merciful as God is merciful), a law of doing (you must act mercifully whenever it is appropriate), and a soul virtue. Justice tempered with mercy is the rule in heaven, not mercy tempered with justice, which does not work, for it’s too soft.—Edna Lister, as quoted by Lotus Landis

Edna Lister on Mercy

You must be supreme justice tempered with mercy, not mercy tempered with justice, which fails, for it is too soft.—Edna Lister, April 17, 1938.

God cannot deny a soul’s plea for mercy when it is made under sacrifice of self in repentance.—Edna Lister, December 4, 1941.

When your wisdom is greater than your love, then knowing is much greater than understanding, without sufficient compassion of mercy to cover the transgressions of others.—Edna Lister, July 29, 1942.

Justice tempered with mercy and compassion is the rule in heaven.—Edna Lister, April 15, 1950.

When you criticize or judge a personal judgment, you cannot escape the reaction of law unless you pass the initiation and your judgment is then legalized as justice tempered by mercy.—Edna Lister, June 4, 1951.

You are learning to dispense justice, covered with love, enfolded in mercy under a very positive firmness.—Edna Lister, November 14, 1957.

When you balance your expression of the Father-Mother principles of Wisdom and Love as compassion, you obtain mercy yourself.—Edna Lister, Ten Commandments and Beatitudes, November 4, 1958.

The justice, wisdom and mercy of God are alike infinite, and do not conflict with one another.—Edna Lister, Three Covenants Between God and Man, December 15, 1959.

Mercy is love, backed with compassion and wisdom.—Edna Lister, The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, April 21, 1964.

Practice pure justice tempered with mercy.—Edna Lister, Pythagoras, the Establishment of His Three Degrees, June 8, 1965.

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New Testament on Mercy

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.—Hebrews 9:1-5.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.—Matthew 5:7.

Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.—Luke 6:35-36.

Go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice."—Matthew 9:13 from Hosea 6:6.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.—Matthew 23:23.

When you show mercy to a stranger, you have loved your neighbor as yourself.—Luke 10:27-37.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.—Hebrews 4:16.

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Old Testament on Mercy

The Mercy Seat: And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.—Exodus 25:17-22.

The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.—Numbers 14:18.

The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.—Psalm 37:21.

Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.—Psalm 62:12.

Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.—Proverbs 3:3-4.

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged.—Proverbs 16:6.

He that follows after righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor.—Proverbs 21:21.

He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.—Proverbs 28:13.

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Mercy in Other Sacred Writings

Make way for every work of mercy: for every man shall find according to his works.—Wisdom of Ben Sirach 16:14.

Before judgment examine yourself, and in the day of visitation you shalt find mercy.—Wisdom of Ben Sirach 18:20.

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Edna Miriam Lister
The original Pioneering Mystic,
Christian Platonist philosopher, American Idealist, Founder, Society of the Universal Living Christ, minister, teacher, author, wife, and mother.

Edna Lister

Etymology of mercy: Medieval Latin merces, from Latin, "reward."

Mercy is an absolute principle.

Mercy is an abstract principle.

Mercy is a target="_blank">law of being.

Mercy is a law of doing.

Mercy is a target="_blank">soul virtue.

Thee, God, I Come From
Thee, God, I come from, to thee go,
All day long I like fountain flow
From thy hand out, swayed about
Mote-like in thy mighty glow.

What I know of thee I bless,
As acknowledging thy stress
On my being and as seeing
Something of thy holiness.

Once I turned from thee and hid,
Bound on what thou hadst forbid;
Sow the wind I would; I sinned:
I repent of what I did.

Bad I am, but yet thy child.
Father, be thou reconciled.
Spare thou me, since I see
With thy might that thou art mild.

I have life before me still
And thy purpose to fulfil;
Yea a debt to pay thee yet:
Help me, sir, and so I will.

But thou bidst, and just thou art,
Me shew mercy from my heart
Towards my brother, every other
Man my mate and counterpart.
—Gerard Manley Hopkins


Harper, Douglas. Online Etymology Dictionary, 2024.

The Holy Bible. King James Version (KJV).

Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Thee, God, I Come From, to Thee Go. Poems. London: Humphrey Milford Co., 1918.

The Nag Hammadi Library. James M. Robinson, ed. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.

The Oxford English Dictionary: Compact Ed., 2 vols. E.S.C. Weiner, ed. Oxford University Press, 1971.

Webster, Noah. Webster’s American Dictionary. New York: S. Converse, 1828.

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Grace and Graciousness

The Mercy Tap: Linda Mihalic, October 17, 2004.