a website dedicated to the memory of Adolphe Monod (1802-1856)



The Mercy of God (1828)

English translation


This is the second part of a couple of sermons on Romans 11.32.

My notes on the first part can be found here.


Having reminded his listeners (and readers) of the key elements of the first sermon, Monod directly addresses those of his audience that have never undergone a conversion experience. He invites them to be worried because they find themselves in a situation of both guilt and misery. They need to be delivered “from the penalty of sin and from sin itself”, but they are unable to free themselves because even a perfect conduct cannot redeem their sins of the past, and is it impossible to build something holy on the bad foundations of the past. The only way out is found in God.

Monod thus undertakes to present God’s plan, but this time he bases his arguments only on the Word of God, because reason, which is capable of establishing man’s lostness, could not possibly imagine the solution God has brought about.

As a matter of fact – and this is at the very heart of the Gospel – God solves the problem of guilt by offering man his forgiveness. Man is unable to obtain justification through his own deeds and needs justification by faith, which is offered as a grace. It has its foundation in the work of Jesus Christ who has suffered the punishment we deserved.

Monod admits that this teaching surpasses his understanding and raises questions that he cannot answer, but he asserts that he can grasp it “by what precedes and what follows it”, i.e. through the answer it provides to the needs of his anxious conscience and through the peace it offers him.

God also overcomes the misery of man by re-igniting the love of God in him. As a matter of fact, whoever contemplates the work of the Son who offered his life for sinners, in the absence of any merit on their behalf, can only cry out: “What love! My God, what love!”

One might think that such love could only arouse man’s love for God in return, but as a matter of fact, it does not, unless man’s spirit is prepared by the Spirit of God acting upon it.

Monod establishes that the Spirit is not promised to the apostles alone, but to all Christians. He refutes several erroneous approaches and then concludes:

“The action of the Holy Spirit is direct, real supernatural, exerted upon the spirit of man by a God equally sovereign over our hearts as over our nature, and who can at will give us and take from us our thoughts and feelings … The Holy Spirit is God in man.”

The preacher then summarizes what he has established so far:

“God’s mercy has left nothing undone for the salvation of the sinner. Man needs a double deliverance; sinful, he needs forgiveness; wretched, he needs a change of heart, and God offers them both in Jesus Christ, who has suffered the punishment due to his sins. He changes his heart by showing his love through redemption, which the Holy Spirit allows him to believe and experience.”

This raises the question of man’s contribution – is there nothing man has to do?

Monod answers this question by asserting that man has to have a certain disposition of the soul – that he has to exercise faith. When speaking of faith, the preacher distinguishes “faith in God”, which is the “general conviction that the Bible is the Word of God”, from one of its consequences, “faith in Jesus Christ”, i.e. the “particular conviction that … we are all lost and may all be saved by Jesus Christ”. It is the latter that we have to have in order to be saved.

But how can we acquire this faith? Faced with the paradox that faith is a gift of God and that man is called to exercise faith, one might be discouraged, but in practice the way out of this dilemma is easy: it is sufficient to ask God for faith. And even if man has only a beginning of faith to offer, he should do so in order to benefit from this virtuous circle “from prayers to graces and from graces to prayers”, which will make him reach the way of God’s mercy.

Monod then addresses those who reject his discourse. He accepts the dismissal of the form, the language, the order of ideas, and everything else that has its origin in the speaker. Things are different when it comes to the content, the very ideas underlying it – the misery of man; his need for salvation in Jesus-Christ, by grace, through faith; the work of the Holy Spirit – whoever dismisses these doctrines rejects the Gospel itself. The sermon becomes very solemn in this place:

“What I have preached to you is not my opinion. It is the truth. It is not my doctrine. It is the doctrine. It is more. It ist he life. If you do not believe it, you abide in death.”

He who refuses it also refuses the declarations of the Reformed liturgy and has to ask himself why he comes to Church.

“You must extricate yourselves in some way from so wrong a position; you must either go forward or backward; either take the thing or give up the name; receive the doctrine or admit that you are not Christians.”

Monod then has a word for those of his listeners who have been moved by his discourse. He invites them to turn to God and ask him for the grace of conversion, accepting to sacrifice whatever may be an obstacle, be it wealth or reputation, well-being, certain relationships, etc. “Turn me and I shall be turned!”

Monod terminates the sermon with a prayer in which he implores God to send his Spirit into the hearts of those who are inclined to conform to God’s will and ways.


Monod does not give any clear hints concerning the structure, but his discourse is logically ordered. There is no real exordium: the sermon begins with a summary of the most important elements of the first sermon. A possible structure could be:

  1. A twofold problem: guilt and misery
  2. The answer to guilt: propitiation in Jesus Christ
  3. The answer to misery: rediscovering God’s love
  4. The need for the work of the Spirit
  5. The requirement of faith
  6. Invitation to commit to the path leading to salvation

Why this sermon matters

This sermon is quite deep as to its theology. Monod tackles serious and complex matters – the biblical response to man’s guilt and misery, the doctrine of the Spirit, the theology of faith … – and he does so with great clarity. He admits that he does not have all the answers, but this fact does not hinder him from insisting on what God has definitely revealed in the Bible and outlining a pragmatic approach based on this revelation.

As Fredrik Dahlbom says in his thesis (1923), Monod’s insistence on the will to believe is original and rooted in his own experience:

“In his own conversion, the volitional element was important. He had been a skeptic but his doubts had made him suffer. He wanted to believe, and this is why he had not given up the fight when it seemed most desperate. That being said, in Monod’s thought the insistence on the will does not contradict self-abandonment. Quite to the contrary, the will here designates the will to abandon oneself.”

One may also note the original distinction between “faith in God” (perhaps it would be more appropriate to speak of “faith in Scripture”) and “faith in Jesus Christ”.

Monod’s language is beautiful; his love to detail is perceptible. A few examples shall suffice: Monod opposes mérite et dignité (merit and truth) and démérite et indignité (demerit and indignity), mentions the arrival of the sinner (pécheur des pécheurs) in the holiest of holies (Saint des Saints) and contrasts ce que sa miséricorde a de plus tendre (the most tender aspects of his mercy) with ce que sa sainteté a de plus terrible (the mosts terrible aspects of his holiness).


I would say that this sermon is very dense, and perhaps too dense, as to its theology. Monod uses few illustrations, everything is very intellectual and abstract – and yet the sermon is quite long (about fifty minutes). In other words, Monod puts the average listener severely to the test. It took an pulpit speaker of his calibre to sweeten this pill.

In his above-mentioned thesis, Dahlbom puts this weakness into perspective:

“[Monod] wants to free religion from its slavery to which the Moralism of the Enlightenment had reduced it; he wants to bring her back home. But because of his understanding of revelation he forces her into a new slavery: the slavery of intellectualism. Very much like the Enlightenment confounded religion and morality, Monod and the Awakening run the risk of confounding religion and belief. Monod’s examination of faith in the sermon The Mercy of God provides a typical example. Monod distinguishes between “faith in God”, i.e. the belief that everything that God has said in his Word is true, and “faith in Christ”, i.e. the belief that there is a force that is distinct from ourselves, which cannot act before all that is false in us has been removed by self-abandonment. It is clear that Monod thinks that what counts is [faith as] trust, and that [faith as] acceptance and conservation [of the doctrine] only serves to establish a safe foundation for trust. But practically speaking the converse is true: he delves so deep into scholarly demonstrations that the things that should only have served as support for faith as trust has pride of place and pushes the aspect of trust into the background.”

Rhetorical elements

It is difficult not to note the three refrains that rhythm the second part of the sermon. First, there is, about halfway through the sermon, the fourfold exclamation: “What love! My God, what love!” Then, closer towards the end, Monod 14 times (!) repeats the question “Do you will to …?”, followed by 15 (!) repetitions of “It is the Gospel of …”. Each of these repetitions as such is quite efficient, but I would say that their accumulation is somewhat too much. All the more as there are more repetitions; we find three repetitions of “No, says Scripture”, and in the last paragraphs of the sermon, four repetitions of “Do you want ...”, followed by four “... above all”. Sometimes, less is more …


Monod’s list of authorities that endorse his Gospel proves him to be quite open-minded: we find not only Calvin and Luther, but also Fénelon, Thomas à Kempis and St Bernard. Not all evangelical preachers of today would be ready to invoke the support of all of these remarkable Christian men.


Download the original (French) text (thanks to Google Books)

Download the (French) text in modern layout

Download my English translation

Listen to a recording of my translation (53 min):

Download the.mp3 file

Download the 1878 translation by J.E. Rankin


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