GOD IS MERCIFUL TILL FORCED TO CHASTISE.
Thou hast been favourable to the nation, O Lord, thou hast been favourable to the nation; art thou glorified? (Is. xxvi. 15).
Yes, O Lord, Thou hast dealt mercifully with Thy people, and what hast Thou received in return? Have thy people abandoned sin and changed their lives? No; they have gone from bad to worse! But let us remember, God must hate sin because He is holy: He must chastise it because He is just.
We must persuade ourselves that God cannot do otherwise than hate sin; He is holiness itself, and therefore cannot but hate that monster, his enemy, whose malice is altogether opposed to the perfection of God. And if God hate sin, He must necessarily hate the sinner who makes league with sin. But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike (Wis. xiv. 9). O God, with what grief and with what reason dost Thou not complain of those who despise Thee, to take part with Thy enemy! Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have brought up children, and exalted them; but they have despised me (Is. i. 2). Hear, O ye heavens, He says, and give ear, O earth, and witness the ingratitude with which I am treated by men! I have brought them up, and exalted them as My children, and they have repaid Me with contempt and outrage. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel hath not known me. (Ibid. 3). But how is this? “Services are remembered even by beasts,” says Seneca. The very brutes are grateful to their benefactors. See how that dog serves and obeys, and is faithful to his master, who feeds him; even the wild beasts, the tiger and the lion are grateful to those who feed them. And God, Who till now has provided us with everything; Who has given us food and raiment; Who kept us in existence up to the moment we were offending Him — how have we treated Him?
Do we think we can live on as we have been living? Do we perhaps think that there is no punishment, no hell for us? But hearken and know that as the Lord cannot but hate sin, because He is holy, so He cannot but chastise it when the sinner is obstinate, because He is just.
When God does chastise, it is not to please Himself, but because we force Him to it. The Wise Man says that God did not create hell, through a desire of condemning man thereto, and that He does not rejoice in their damnation, because He does not wish to see His creatures perish: For God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living; for he created all things that they might be (Wis. i. 13). No gardener plants a tree in order to cut it down and burn it. It is not God’s desire to see us miserable and in torments, and therefore, says St. John Chrysostom, He waits so long before He takes vengeance on the sinner. He waits for our conversion, that He may then be able to use His mercy in our regard. Therefore the Lord waiteth, that he may have mercy on you (Is. xxx. 18). Our God, says the same St. John Chrysostom, is in haste to save, and slow to condemn. When there is question of pardon, no sooner has the sinner repented than he is forgiven by God. Scarcely had David said: Peccavi, Domino! when he was informed by the Prophet that his pardon was already granted: The Lord also hath taken away thy sin (2 Kings, xii. 13). Yes, because “we do not desire pardon as eagerly as God desires to pardon us,” says the same holy Doctor. On the other hand, when there is question of punishment, He waits, He admonishes, He sends us warning of it beforehand: For the Lord God doth nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the Prophets (Amos, iii. 7).