Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy; for thou renderest to every man according to his work.
— Psalm 62 v.12

God is not bound to punish sin; he is bound to destroy it. If he were not the Maker, he might not be bound to destroy sin; but seeing he has created creatures who have sinned, and therefore sin has, by the creating act of God, come into the world, God is, in his own righteousness, bound to destroy sin. And God is always destroying sin. He is always saving the sinner from his sins, and that is destroying sin. But vengeance on the sinner, the law of a tooth for a tooth, is not in the heart of God. If the sinner and the sin in him are the concrete object of the divine wrath, then there can be no mercy; indeed, there will be an end put to sin by the destruction of the sin and the sinner together. But thus would no atonement be wrought—nothing be done to make up for the wrong God has allowed to come into being by creating man. There must be an atonement, a making-up, which cannot be made except by the man who has sinned. What better is the world, what better is the sinner, that the sinner should suffer—continue suffering to all eternity? Would there be less sin in the universe? What setting-right would come of the sinner’s suffering? To suffer to all eternity could not make up for one unjust word. That word is an eternally evil thing; nothing but God in my heart can cleanse me from the evil that uttered it. Sorrow and confession and self-abasing love will make up for the evil word; suffering will not. I may be saved from evil by learning to loathe it, to shrink from it with an eternal avoidance. The only vengeance worth having on sin is to make the sinner himself its executioner.