Were we ourselves as pure as the angels in heaven, were we what our race once was in the garden of Eden, immaculate and perfect, it is quite certain that we should have a far better and nobler idea of the character of God than we can by possibility attain unto in our fallen state. But you cannot fail to notice, that men, through the alienation of their natures, are continually misrepresenting God, because they cannot appreciate his perfection. Does God at one time withhold his hand from wrath? Lo, they say that God hath ceased to judge the world, and looks upon it with listless phlegmatic indifference. Does he at another time punish the world for sin? They say he is severe and cruel. Men will misunderstand him, because they are imperfect themselves, and are not capable of admiring the character of God.
Let them beware, for although God is slow to anger, he is sure in it.
When God’s power doth restrain himself, then it is power indeed, the power to curb power, the power that binds omnipotence is omnipotence surpassed. God is great in power, and therefore doth he keep in his anger. A man who has a strong mind can bear to be insulted, can bear offences, because he is strong. The weak mind snaps and snarls at the little: the strong mind bears it like a rock; it moveth not, though a thousand breakers dash upon it, and cast their pitiful malice in the spray upon its summit. God marketh his enemies, and yet he moveth not; he standeth still, and letteth them curse him, yet is he not wrathful; If he were less of a God than he is, if he were less mighty than we know him to be, he would long ere this have sent forth the whole of his thunders, and emptied the magazines of heaven; he would long ere this have blasted the earth with the wondrous mines he hath prepared in its lower surface; the flame that burneth there would have consumed us, and we should have been utterly destroyed. We bless God that the greatness of his power is just our protection; he is slow to anger because he is great in power.
God “will not acquit the wicked;” how prove I this? I prove it thus. Never once has he pardoned an unpunished sin; not in all the years of the Most High, not in all the days of his right hand, has he once blotted out sin without punishment. What! say you, were not those in heaven pardoned? Are there not many transgressors pardoned, and do they not escape without punishment? Has he not said, “I have blotted out thy transgressions like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities?” Yes, true, most true, and yet my assertion is true also—not one of all those sins that have been pardoned were pardoned without punishment. Do you ask me why and how such a thing as that can be the truth? I point you to yon dreadful sight on Calvary; the punishment which fell not on the forgiven sinner fell there. The cloud of justice was charged with fiery hail; the sinner deserved it; it fell on him; but, for all that, it fell, and spent its fury; it fell there, in that great reservoir of misery; it fell into the Saviour’s heart. The plagues, which need should light on our ingratitude did not fall on us, but they fell somewhere; and who was it that was plagued? Tell me, Gethsemane; tell me, O Calvary’s summit, who was plagued. The doleful answer comes, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is Jesus suffering all the plagues of sin. Sin is still punished, though the sinner is delivered.
Can you by humble faith look to Jesus, and say, “My substitute, my refuge, my shield; thou art my rock, my trust; in thee I do confide?” Then, beloved, to you I have nothing to say, except this,—Never be afraid when you see God’s power; for now that you are forgiven and accepted, now that by faith you have fled to Christ for refuge, the power of God need no more terrify you, than the shield and sword of the warrior need terrify his wife or his child.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon