Even without the material rectification of a wrong when that is impossible, repentance removes the offence which no suffering could. I should even feel that the gift the thief had made me, giving into my heart a repentant brother, was infinitely beyond the restitution of what he had taken from me. If it be objected, “You may forgive, but the man has sinned against God,” I answer, then it is not a part of the divine to be merciful, and a man may be more mercifiul than his maker! “Mercy may be against justice.” Never—if you mean by justice what I mean. If anything be against justice, it cannot be called mercy, for it is cruelty. “To thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy, for thou renderest every man according to his work.” There is no opposition, no strife whatever, between mercy and justice. Those who say justice means the punishment of sin, and mercy the not punishing of sin, and attribute both to God, would make a schism in the very idea of God. Which brings me to the question, what is meant by divine justice?
Human justice may be a poor distortion, a mere shadow of justice; but the justice of God must be perfect. If you ask the average congregation what is meant by it, would not 19 out of 20 answer that it means his punishing of sin? Yet a Roman emperor might punish every wrong and be the most unjust of men. God is one; and the depth of foolishness is reached by that theology which represents God as having to do that as a magistrate which as a father he would not do! The love of the father makes him desire to be unjust as judge!