Friday, January 20, 2012


(Because of the wretched state of Red Deer’s pulpit space, it is now, as predicted by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3, the time to ‘pluck up that which is planted…a time to break down…a time to weep…a time to cast away stones’ and even ‘a time to refrain from embracing.’ And it is certainly more ‘a time to speak’ than ‘a time to keep silence.’ Be that as it may, the wrecking ball of negative criticism should be followed by the laying down of truth. To this end, we introduce the sermon sketch as an intermittent blog feature. As the term ‘sketch’ implies, this kind of post, in distinction from the usually lengthy analysis, will be pithy. The source for each sketch will be indicated at the bottom of each post.)

Mercy, Omnipotence, and Justice

“The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1.3.)

Introduction. Men will misunderstand God, because men are fallen and flawed. Men especially misunderstand with regard to certain lights and shadows in God’s character, which are so marvelously blended in the perfection of his nature. Paul is noted for zeal, Peter for courage, John for love, because they were unbalanced men. But in Christ, characteristics are so perfectly blended that we do not note him for any one attribute, but are conscious of the harmonious diversity in his Personality. It is the same with God. The two clauses in my text seem to describe contrary attributes: mercy and justice. But because we are imperfect, we fail to see how they agree.

(1) God is Slow to Anger. The sword of God’s justice is in its scabbard: not rusted in it—it can be easily withdrawn—but mercy holds it there. Why is God slow to anger? Because he never strikes without threatening first. Men give a word and a hit, sometimes the hit first and the word afterward. Not God. He preaches by Noah and by Jonah first. And he is even slow to threaten. He promises swiftly, threatens reluctantly. He did not send Jonah to Nineveh until Nineveh was foul with sin. He does not even threaten the sinner by his conscience until the sinner has often sinned. But best of all, when God threatens, he is slow to sentence the criminal! When Adam sinned did God hurry up to sentence him? No. “The Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day.” And then, even when the sentence is signed, God is tardy to carry out justice. He will go down to Sodom to see for himself. And, ah! it just crossed my mind! There are some men, even now, who have sinned unto death. But God allows them their pleasures for awhile longer. If God were not slow to anger, this giant city would have already been annihilated! Our nightly vices cannot be equaled for evil. Wrath says, “Unsheath thyself, O sword!” Mercy puts her hand upon the hilt, and the sword rattles back again. “Slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” God is slow to anger because he is good, but also because he is great. Only little things are easily stirred up.

(2) God is Slow to Anger because he is Great in Power. He that is great in power has power over himself.      The power that binds omnipotence is omnipotence surpassed. We bless God that the greatness of his power is a great reason of our protection. Ah, but the greatness of his power is also an assurance that he “will not at all acquit the wicked.” We feel much assured of this when the storms brew, do we not? Who stood to see the lofty tree sliced in half by the lighting flash? A swearer? Did he swear then? Did not his face go white?

(3) God will not at all Acquit the Wicked. This is his most terrible attribute, justice. Never once has God pardoned an unpunished sin. ‘What!’ you say. To prove it. First, the cloud of justice has fallen into that great reservoir of misery, the Saviour’s heart, to pardon us. Second, take a walk through history and see the judgments there. Third, every shriek and groan in hell is proof enough. Why will God not acquit the wicked? First, because he is good. Even an earthly judge will condemn a murderer out of love for a nation. Mercy, with her weeping eyes, looks more terribly grim even than justice, when she drops the white flag! Second, because justice demands punishment for sin. Must I pass through all the attributes of God to prove this. I think not.

Selection from Conclusion. “My friend, man or woman, what is thy state? Canst thou look up to heaven and say, ‘Though I have sinned greatly I believe Christ was punished in my stead?’”

{This sermon by C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) is sketched by M. H. Gaboury.}

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